New Calhoun chapbook now out from Propaganda Press! (1 Viewer)

Hey, Leah from Alternating Current has put out a chap of my stuff titled Near daybreak, with a nod to Frost. I'm proud and happy to join Hosho and Chris Cunningham as poets that she has published. At six bucks, the chap is affordable and I'm happy with the way it turned out.

You can check it out at

In a horrible oversight, they have put Hosh and me on page two of the catalog. :)

Anybody who wants a signed copy, let me know. I'll give you my address and you can send me a check for six bucks or hit me on PayPal ([email protected]) and I'll send you a copy. Postage is on me.

There's a couple from j.b there--Nowhere, Utah and [untitled]. Fine books, both. Throw in some Jeff Fleming, some Galing, some Kriesel, and some Manning for good measure. Will probably try the new Cooper book and Calhoun's humble offering next time I order. Or, for a sample from loads of folks--try Poiesis..always a super diverse collection.
I agree, Hosh, Leah does some great stuff. Cunningham's and yours and Fleming's are my faves, but there are a lot of good ones. And Poesis, you're right, great little collection, a ton of poets under one cover. I think you'll appreciate the one I have in the next issue (#4) ... just to give you a hint as to what it's about, it's called "The oxymoron of small-press fame." I think we can all relate ...


Founding member
it's called "The oxymoron of small-press fame." I think we can all relate...
Poems about writing poetry, being a poet, or the workings of the "small press" (or "littles") are an ugly part of Bukowski's legacy. It's one of the worst things he unleashed, right behind the "I drank a gallon of whiskey, fucked a whore, went to the track" poems that so many tough as nails poets feel compelled to endlessly shit out onto a defenseless world.

You know, in my ever-humble opinion.

When I come across one of those kinds of pieces I skip over it. But that's just me. What do I know. I'm sure yours is lovely, HC.

Seems to me though, that if you're a POET sitting there thinking, "I must write a poem now!" and that's all that comes out, you should probably walk away and do something else. Anything else. It's like a bored rock band writing another song about "the road." Shut up and give me another awesome tune about wizards or demons, bitch!


lothario speedwagon
or if you're tenacious d, write a song about the road that blows all the other songs about the road off the map.

i agree that poems about being a poet or writing poetry are awfully played out (i self-published a chapbook back when i was 19 that was full of these "gems"), but i think the subject of being a well-known small press poet who no one has ever heard of has some material left to mine. especially for someone who has been involved in the small press for 30 years (like harry or david barker), moreso than someone in their 20's whose only experience with the small press comes from emails and online "journals." it's a little different than the 1000's of poems that start with:

sitting at the typer
whiskey in hand
waiting for a visit from the muse

don't forget, you have to say "typer," rather than"computer" or even "typewriter." also, you get extra points if you say things like "pomes" (a la father luke) or "poesy." don't forget to mention being drunk, or drinking, and no mike's hard lemonade either. say "fuck" at least four times, and you've got a poem for sure.


Founding member
i think the subject of being a well-known small press poet who no one has ever heard of has some material left to mine.
Fair enough. I don't agree in every case though. I don't give a shit what raindog or Lyn Lifshin has to say about being a poet (though Lifshin surprised me with a poem I actually liked in MILK).

I wasn't picking on HC specifically, he just put me in the mind of the others.

you get extra points if you say things like "pomes"
Don't forget poasts, or dawt calm for That's some real werd playe there.


Usually wrong.
[...] Seems to me though, that if you're a POET sitting there thinking, "I must write a poem now!" and that's all that comes out, you should probably walk away and do something else. Anything else. [...]
I couldn't agree more. I wouldn't even sit down thinking "I must write a poem now." That seldom ends well. (Not saying anything about your poems, Harry...)
Hmmm, just read the posts ... "The oxymoron of small press fame" isn't really about writing poetry, but a commentary on the sad fact that so many of the good poems get trapped in a print run of 200 or so. It would be nice, and no slam to mjp, if somebody actually READ the poem before damning it as another Bukowski ripoff. And as far as my poems go, they're probably more influenced by Hal Borland, the nature writer, and W.S. Merwin, a decidedly non-Bukowski clone. Hell, I grew up reading Dylan Thomas before I even heard of Bukowski.

Agree with both Michael and David about sitting down to write a poem. That's just silly. It's like sitting on the commode and saying, "Now I will myself to take a shit."


Founding member
"The oxymoron of small press fame" is[...] a commentary on the sad fact that so many of the good poems get trapped in a print run of 200 or so. It would be nice, and no slam to mjp, if somebody actually READ the poem before damning it as another Bukowski ripoff.
Well I don't need to read it, you just confirmed that it is exactly what the title suggests it is; a poem about writing poetry, being a poet, or the workings of the "small press."

I didn't say such things were "Bukowski rip offs," I said they were the ugly part of his legacy. And they are. No one outside of other poets wants to hear, or has any possibility of relating to shit like that. But then again, no one besides another poet will ever read them, so maybe it's not that important.

To me, those kinds of poems are an easy cop out. When you've written 6000 poems and the bulk of them have been published and circulated all over the world, I can see a few dozen of them being about the act of writing or publishing. But I wouldn't expect to see waste and fluff like that from someone less prolific.

I'm not picking on you, HC, but most poems are not "trapped" in a run of 200 - they are fortunate to even be in a run of 200. From what I've read in "the small press" over the past 20 years, most of them don't deserve to be seen anywhere but on the poet's desk.


Usually wrong.
Harry, I know I have sometimes been guilty of just "piling on" when a thread gets my attention, and I wondered if I was doing it here, but I don't think I was so much as reacting to, and agreeing with mjp, that -- in general -- poems about poetry are not interesting, and sitting down to write when you don't have an idea usually doesn't result in an idea worth writing. I didn't need to read your poem to have those general ideas, and I know you get that. Still, I kind of wish I'd avoided commenting because now I feel like I was piling on, even though (I hope you know) I wasn't. Like, you, I was reading Dylan Thomas long before I ever heard of Bukowski, and he had as much influence on me as Bukowski.
Hey guys, look. No hard feelings and no big deals. To some extent I agree with the "poems about poetry" stuff, but I would say that maybe one or two poems a year of mine fits that description. Look at it this way. I live with my wife and my dog, and inevitably, a lot of my stuff centers around them. To share a bit from my personal life, this past March I made the decision to go part time at work. The reason? I was getting so much fulfillment from my poems -- as therapy, as creative expression, and yes, dammit, from the publications. So I decided to part with 17 grand a year to have every Friday off to work my trade. Do you think that once in a while I might write a poem that was about, God forbid, the very process that had lured me to take leave of my senses, and my income, to partake in?

I just accepted three poems by Winans for Pig in a Poke. The three I accepted were, in one way or another, about writing poetry. I didn't accept the fourth one because it would not have fit in the same "suite," if you catch my drift. I think Jordan hit very close to the truth in his last post ... it's a matter of moderation. Nobody wants to listen to some "sensitive" ass rambling on about sitting at the "typer" drinking bourbon and suffering from creative diarrhea. But ... once in a while, there's a place for it.

So. Michael, David, you have a point. For the record, here is the poem in question. And sure, it's about poetry, no doubt about it, but it's also about something I've wondered about: If we get published in a beautiful, limited edition run, and if we know damned well that everyone in that limited run is going to buy up every copy of it, and if I go up to the cabinet where mine is stored -- here we go with me being American, and "what good is it if you can't use it" -- what is the point if not more than three or four people, a dozen at most, see it? If we are in this racket to communicate, and not just stroke our egos, would it not make more sense to seek wider publication?

I realize this will not be a popular point of view in this forum, but it is mine, and I think that I have poked away at the poetry gig long enough to have earned it. As you, gentlemen, have certainly earned yours. And whether you have earned it or not, here is the poem:

The oxymoron of small-press fame

I get two contributors' copies of a folio
filled with broadsides by small-press luminaries.
They're beautifully done, on heavy cardstock,
each broadside a unique design and color. Besides
some names that are familiar to many today,
there are reprints of poems by Bukowski,
Brautigan and Ferlinghetti. My poem is sandwiched
between Bukowski's and Christopher Cunningham's.

So this is fame, small-press style. Fame indeed;
the irony being that this beautiful presentation,
like so many small-press publications,
is a limited edition of 200 copies.
So maybe someday this will be a collector's item,
but right now it means that only a few hundred
people will see this work. It's the flip side
of "it's hard to be humble when you're
as great as I am" "”

it's hard to be famous
when you're as obscure as I am.

Peace to all,

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Usually wrong.
Harry, I made the same decision a year ago, to semi-retire and work only half-time. I love the free time I now have, and I'm using it to write as well as to do yard work, family stuff, eBay selling. There's less money, which is a problem, but I think it was a good trade.

Personally, I am not bothered by the fact that few people see the small press publications I'm in. Just the fact that they are published and there are copies out there feels good. At least those poems will survive. I can't say as much about my unpublished work. It may end up in a dumpster, or as ashes. A friend of mine's house just burned down. He lost everything. He was a collector/dealer and estimates it was $500,000 worth of rare records, books, original art -- all gone. The only good part is that he is not a writer, so at least he didn't lose a life's work in manuscript. So the way I look at it is that if my poem is in the most obscure mag on earth, 15 copies printed, chances are it will be around a long long time. I guess I don't think much about getting a larger audience. It would be nice, as long as I didn't have to do anything to actually earn it, in the way of schmoozing, traveling, hustling. If I just fell into it, and there was some money, sure, why not. It doesn't bother me to have only a few hundred people see my work. But I respect that you want more. No harm in that.

Any way, good luck with the 20 hour week. It's great when I leave work at 1:00 in the afternoon, go home and print poems on my rubber type press, knowing that someone else is doing the work that I would have done a year ago.
Very good points, David. I might have mentioned that I pretty much lost my small-press collection in a flood in Key West. That was hard to take, but at least I had my writing backed up on my computer and on floppy disks. Of course, how much that's worth depends on how much you value Harry Calhoun's poetry, but it meant something to me.

Actually, I'm only taking one day off, so I do 32 hours, but it's amazing the difference it makes. Even if one day of my weekend is wasted doing errands and other idiotic crap, I still have two more to work on writing and submitting my stuff. Money shmoney, we're talking fulfillment, as you seem to know.

As far as what I want from myself, hell if I know. I probably know as little now as I did in my 20s, except that I am absolutely certain that I get great satisfaction from putting the word on the paper. And you're right ... I would never turn down money. I just got 31 bucks and change from sales of my books, and I'll take it. Heck, I might FRAME it.

You are absolutely correct about the small press runs ... it's an honor to be seen in, say, Bill's Bottle series of broadsides, or Jordan and Justine's A Common Thread, or Pete Lally's Alligator Stew. So I do know what you mean.


Usually wrong.
Maybe I'm just plain perverse, but I'd rather be published by Bottle of Smoke Press than, say, Harper's. But that's me. And I have my reasons.


Art should be its own hammer.
Reaper Crew
Founding member
I'd like to be published by both. BoSP first, then Harper's. draw some attention to Bill and hopefully he can stop waking up at 4 in the morning to sell counter top to the Amish. instead, he can wake up at 4:05 AM to print books because some twat he published in the past got a poem or story in Harper's and mentioned BoSP.

see, I'm a humanitarian! and delusional!


Usually wrong.
I was thinking of Harper & Rowe, the book publisher, but there's also the magazine, Harper's Magazine -- both mainstream. Either one will do.
are there any other publishers better than BoSP? I daresay, fuck no (though props and mad respek to chance press and a couple others).

the road to valerie harper is littered with the bones of many...

and hey, thanks mssr calhoun for the mention in the poem, though I'm a dubious benchmark for sure...
are there any other publishers better than BoSP? I daresay, fuck no (though props and mad respek to chance press and a couple others).

Hey Chris, agreed, it's hard to find a press that is a labor of love like Bill's is. He does amazing stuff. The only one that I can think of offhand that compares is Adastra Press, where Gary Metras has been turning out beautiful volumes on high quality stock and hand letterpress for many years. Reviewing several Adastra titles last year, the American Book Review said, "As long as fine literary presses continue to handcraft handsome books like these from Adastra, serious readers of the twenty-first century can rest assured, the book is alive and well."

Metras is a kindred spirit to Bill Roberts! Good to know the two of them are out there.
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Thanks for the mad props, but there are much better printers and publishers out there than me, of course. I see some books that make me want to cry. Hopefully I'll be there some day. I do not know about the press that Harry mentioned, but I should check it out. And Chance press is taking names and kicking asses. Watch those two. Then there are amazing printers like Jason Davis, Johnny Brewton, etc, etc...

I need to find a way to quit my job though and make books for a living. Maybe I need to find a rich patron. That would be nice! I do not know what I would come up with 40+ hours a week to make art....


I feel like we're all, pretty much, exactly where we belong. That it's ambition that drives us mad. And I thank my lucky stars that someone like Bill Roberts takes his valuable time to put out my work.

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