Phebe Davidson, Review of Harry Calhoun’s “How Love Conquers the World” and “Maintenance and Death” from Wild Goose Poetry Review

Harry Calhoun’s two chapbooks published in 2012 invite readers to re-enter poetry with open ears and eyes, to rediscover the freshness a good poem can deliver.

How Love Conquers the World is exactly what the title promises, a collection of love poems. This is not an easy thing to deliver, and Calhoun sets up his project in the first poem, “After the Poetry Reading.”

I had just had one of those rock star readings,
everything went right, and she came up to my table
after and bought four of my books.

There are, at this point, some cloying narrative possibilities built into the text. A callow poet high on success, a romance at the signing table perhaps, . . . . As it turns out, though, this “she” is not the poet’s love, not the reader of his dreams, not even his reading tour diversion. She is simply a random young woman, buying poems she likes so that she can read them to her boyfriend, something she tells the poet, thus allowing the poet a joyous didactic burst:

This is what poetry is all about, folks. It’s not the rock star readings
or selling books or making a name. It’s talking to someone across a table,
or across the ocean, on the internet or on AT&T. The air in Idaho
is clear and cool tonight, the phones are wide open, and this is how love
conquers the world: One poem, one heart, one line at a time.

The poems that follow live up to that pronouncement, and we are fortunate to stand witness to the loves that inspirit the book ..." Read entire review.

Maintenance and Death

"Maintenance and Death is one of the best chapbooks I've seen and read--the beauty of the book itself and the poetry within just blew me away. I just got back from a writing retreat and couldn't help but bring it along and show it off." -- Kevin Ridgeway, poet, California, USA

"Received your chap yesterday, and have read about half of them. So far a stellar collection, m'man … My wife, Carol, digs your work as well, and will be reading Maintenance and Death when I'm through." -- Doug Draime, poet, Oregon, USA

"Your book is a good one, Harry ..." -- Luis Berriozabal, poet, California, USA

(After I said that I was "pretty happy" with my poems in the book) "I've got your pretty happy beat by very once I'd finished reading it." -- Dion Sims, Illinois, USA

"I really liked your book--as good if not better than all your others (I have 4-5 of them so not the entire Calhoun collection. Many of them reminded me of Lou's (Louis McKee’s) poems, especially in subject. I enjoy the way you put one word in front of the other, the way you bring them to close. Of course I want to know the story behind each one. The press did a wonderful job with your poems. Are you pleased? It's a lovely book." -- Karla Huston, poet, Wisconsin, USA

"I think what I appreciate most, and what draws me to your poetry, is the way you seamlessly write about the layers of what on the surface appears like mundane daily occurrences. Truly enjoying Maintenance and Death." -- Julie Taylor, North Carolina, USA

"Harry, I received the book yesterday and read it last night. Excellent, many fine poems." -- William Doreski, poet, New Hampshire, USA

How Love Conquers the World

"The poems in Harry Calhoun's How Love Conquers the World are sturdy testaments to the power of love -- and poetry -- to save existence from chaos, depression, meaninglessness, and boredom. They are as sweet as first love and as warm and tender as post-coital sleep." -- Howie Good, author of The Death of Me

"A Harry Calhoun love poem is full of the warmth of an autumn day, the sudden heat of summer, winter’s surprising chill. Filled with bonfire and blossom, these poems resonate with the spicy musk of decaying leaves, the rich tang and tannin of a good glass of wine, and when the bottle is done, the sometimes-sad finish. Like the sweet scent of spring rain, these poems offer the hope that love is -- whether new or comfortably familiar -- like that wonderful black dog, wagging its tail somewhere in joyous anticipation." -- Karla Huston, author of An Inventory of Lost Things

"In Harry Calhoun’s poetry the intersection of love and poetry remains a vital place to live our lives. Music, firelight, friendly dogs, and the atonalities of weather shape these poems to human contours. We need this comfort, this affirmation of the primacy of human emotion to shield us from the cold negations of an increasingly absolutist world." -- William Doreski, author of June Snow Dance

The Insomnia Poems

The exquisite pain of loneliness and dread of going to bed alone are captured all too well in The Insomnia Poems by Harry Calhoun. Brooding about his wife's absence, the death of his parents, and his inability to sleep through the night, he's easy to picture: lying in bed, restless, suddenly sitting, groping for his glasses, and jotting down his tortured thoughts. All the while, his beloved black lab Alex holds the key to Calhoun's sanity, his mournful howl, his grinning presence, his solid nearby slumber. Somehow Calhoun gets through, and realizes "You'll sleep until you wake / you'll live until you die / and what matters is what happens in between / and what you dream." A masterfully-written collection from a poet who has never been afraid to examine the deepest, darkest, scariest part of his soul. -- Robin Stratton, editor, Boston Literary Magazine

The Black Dog and the Road

I'm enjoying your book very much... I enjoy how all of the poems read together- one to the next- they are placed nicely in your manuscript... very fluid writing and thought provoking. I also really loved the poem Rock Star, for Bukowski... I'm so happy for your success. -- Carol Lynn Grellas

I knew Bukowski like you knew a rare leaf

I read some of your stuff and found it quite good! -- Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Your poetry is so real and easy to relate to. I don't know how anyone could read your work and still say "I don't get poetry." -- Shirley Allard, editor, Word Catalyst

A sip or a gulp -- it's all pleasure ... Calhoun's poems are accessible as my best-loved sweater, yet filled with quiet astonishments. -- Hillary Hebert, writer

I really enjoyed your book. I admire the fact that at this stage in your life you can write with a tone that is uplifting much of the time, even jubilant. It made me feel good to read something like that for a change. I know there are a lot of damaging memories mixed in, but the narrator in that work manages to rise above it all. -- Tim Peeler, editor, Third Lung Press

Sometimes we float through somber memories that leave us uneasy, wrestling with soft spoken demons that seem more like old friends than nightmares. Then, in a few lines we find ourselves scratching behind the ear of man’s best friend, at ease with the world. It is this mixture of light and dark, ease and unease, now and then, that keep you moving through Mr. Calhoun’s world. -- Rusty Arquette, writer

Harry Calhoun

See Harry live

Harry Calhoun (Raleigh, NC) reads new and old favorites at UnVined in Cary, North Carolina on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Click links to watch:
UnVined 1 UnVined 2 UnVined 3