Dear Whispers’ Friends,
It is a pleasure to share this interview of Jean Calkins. As the editor of four publications, she has encouraged and offered an array of publications over the years, giving writers a chance to share their words.
Many of you have been published at The Jokester. Being an editor for 55 years is an accomplishment many will never come close to. It is an unselfish road of time and personal expense to share the gift of words, especially when computers weren’t available.
Presenting and congratulations to our friend Jean! It has been a pleasure to share the gift of words with her. Please take time to congratulate her too!
1. Where are you from?
I was born Alpha Jean Wyant in Dansville, NY. My parents always called me Jean. The Calkins was added in 1951.
2. I understand that you were the editor of four publications. Could you share them with our readers, along with a few lines about each?
Jean’s Journal, a quarterly, began in 1961. By the time it ended, I had published 25 years and subscribers had grown to nearly 500. I did it all myself on an electric typewriter, printed on a mimeograph. It grew quickly to 100 pages. Its demise, in 1988, was mostly due to failing health.
Haiku was just hitting its stride when I started Haiku Highlights about 2 years later than Jean’s Journal. This was bi-monthly. Lorraine Harr of Portland, Oregon, took it over 5-6 years later, renaming it Dragonfly.
My 3rd effort, Humoresque, was published from 1998-2006.
The Jokester ran from 2006, after we had been in Waynesville, NC for five years. My illness grew much worse and publishing costs were so high (despite many generous contributions) I was forced to shut it down in 2016.
3. What motivates you to write?
Poetry was always a part of me. As a young teenager, I used to take long walks along a creek that ran through our farm, making up poetry never writing down my verse. My first published poem was in the school paper. One editor told me I was a versifier and would never be a poet. Knock me down, and I come back fighting to prove them wrong. I hope I have succeeded. I never had any trouble finding something to write about.
4. Have you any preferred style of poetry that you like to write in?
Originally, everything I wrote was rhymed, but then I got into short forms like haiku and senryu. Later, I let the poem decide.
5. If you could make a wish and have it come true, what would it be?
To have my best poems printed in a handback book and sold in bookstores!
6. Are there any words of advice you would like to share with other writers?
Don’t scream at editors who make suggestions for changes. Listen, decide for yourself if you should make changes or try a different editor. Most won’t take time to make suggestions. If they do, don’t ‘reward’ them with negative feedback (often nasty). Read the work of prize-winning writers and keep trying to improve your poems. There is always more to learn.
Here is one of Jean’s award willing poems for your pleasure—
Somebody Used to Live Here
It crowns a desolate, shaggy hill.
A jewel of disarray,
It toasts the seasons of harsh intent,
A mottled hulk of decay.
And the wind whispers through the pine trees
In a questing, won'dring tone.
Where are those who lived here,
Who called this remnant, home?
Drooping from rusty brown hinges
Are shutters, fragmented and gray.
Smoke curls no more from a chimney
Where stone is crumbled away.
And the wind rattles through loose mortar,
Searching, forever alone,
For someone who used to live here,
Someone who called it home.
Clapboards are agéd, sagging jowls;
Shingle chips litter the sod.
Weeds, thigh-high, choked by brambles,
Hide a pathway once well trod.
And the wind rustles through the grasses
With now and then a groan:
"Oh, somebody used to live here.
Somebody called it home."
Rain whispers now on the hard-packed earth
Devoid of a plow long years.
It gossips aloud on the tin-roofed shed,
And cracked panes shed its tears.
And the wind moans a dirge under sagging eaves —
Oh, a somber, mourning tone —
About those who used to live here
When I called this shadow, home.
Thank you, Jean, for sharing your words with us.