Review (in poem form) of Malcolm Holcombe’s Liberty Circus


Editor’s note: Liberty Circus is a self-described “rogue band of outlaw songwriters and poets” who have banded together to perform in “celebration of good old democratic open-heartedness.” The core group of performers includes singer-songwriters Malcolm Holcombe and RB Morris and poets Alan Kaufman and Al Maginnes. The group is joined by various performers along the tour. Proceeds of the tour will be donated to organizations working with immigrants. 

By Caleb Calhoun

Isis Music Hall, Sunday night,
seated show, tables not pews
but I am not deceived by the wine
by the fine food and the fancy dress
this is the Liberty Circus
this is church
this is… communion.

Off work late I catch a ride
to slip in the back, take in the show
head spinning in 1.4 million different directions
love, passion, ambition, fulfillment – all buffeted
by this maelstrom of frustration,
of self-pity

Malcolm Holcombe mumbling on stage
clears his throat, different tact
powerful baritone,
Bene Gesserit vocalization
“Fuck Trump,” he proclaims,
but all I, in my dress hear is, “I Love You.”

Isis Music Hall, Sunday night,
seated show, tables not standing room
but we are not deceived by the style
by the quiet songs and quickening poems
this is the Liberty Circus
this is a time to dance
this is… a time to mourn

I take a seat in the rear
beside a stranger, beside a friend
there are no strangers here
no room for hate-mongers, war-mongers, fear-mongers,
fat-back republicans, white nationalists,
or self-pity

“I want America back,”
Alan Kaufman tells us
and listening we find ourselves
hiding with his mother from the nazis
stuffed into trains with jews and gypsies and homosexuals
but all we, in our hearts hear is, “I Love You.”

Isis Music Hall, Sunday night,
seated show, reading lights not pyrotechnics
but no one is deceived by the atmosphere
by the folk trios and acoustic songs
this is the Liberty Circus
this is more explosive than The Bomb
this is… preconception demolition

Raptly we watch each performer
singing along or tearing up or laughing out loud
the entire room now connected
by a simple, universal strand
the idea that we are all human, all-one, and that all love
is self-love

The performers join each other
for one last song
the crowd implored to sing along
to the words that adorn Lady Liberty
“I lift my lamp,” we sing as one
but all that we, in our souls are saying is, “I Love You.”


Caleb Calhoun studied writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music at a plethora of clubs and bars across the southeast. He is the host of Soundcheck Radio (Thursday’s 3-5 on 103.7 WPVM) and Soundcheck AVL and the publisher of Rosman City Blues. He currently lives in West Asheville with his woodland mermaid, Dr. Gonzo.

You can reach him at [email protected] and/or



  1. JACKIE RINGERSMA August 15, 2017

    I was there too Caleb. I drove over the mountain from Johnson City to catch the show. What a wonderful review. Your observation was spot-on. Malcolm has been one of my muses for over 20 years. R.B. is just something else again. Was first introduced to him at a John Prine concert. The two Als are special too. I liked your dress. 😉 Love will trump hate. Keep The Faith!

  2. Alan Kaufman August 15, 2017

    Thank you, Caleb! Beautiful poem and fist review I’ve ever seen in verse form. You’ve created a new genre!


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