Category Archives: haibun

Murder Your Darlings

‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’

Arthur Quiller-Couch

This is generally agreed to be good advice to writers. Such good advice, in fact that it has been attributed to a whole clutch of famous writers, such as Faulkner, Oscar Wilde and Chekov. Not that Wilde was ever likely to have said it, but he just attracts attributions.

What it means is that when you write something particularly fine it is probably wandering off the point and needs to be done away with.

I have a haibun like that. It is based on observation, it has been pared down, sent out, pared down again, sent out… You get the picture. Four times I have sent it out, hopefully having been improved each time, and four times it has bounced back. I’m beginning to feel that I’m the only one who likes it.

This is the version I consider the best one. I have removed several of the improvements because I prefer it this way. The finished version included Gordon’s Gin and Lemons, when the real life version featured supermarket vodka and limes. I just thought it warmed things up a little, as the idea of a fragile pensioner laying into cheap vodka is a little bleak. It clearly didn’t work. I also think lemon scans better than lime, but maybe that’s just me.

It might not be the text or the story, of course, it may just be that the haiku is weak. This has been a matter for discussion with several of my published pieces, and may well have played a part in the non-selection of others.

The way to kill a poem is to publish it on a website. Editors don’t want previously published work. If anyone has any ideas as to why it never made the grade, I’d be happy to hear them.

I don’t generally publish my own work, as you know, because I’m never sure about the quality unless a proper editor has selected it. In this case I’m making an exception because I’m looking for ideas, and making you all accessories to murder.

 

One Perfect Lime

The leopard print boots attract my attention. They are several sizes too big for the woman wearing them, and, I think ungallantly, several decades too young.

She is thin and almost translucent, with wispy white hair and the twitching neck movements of an egret.

Shuffling down the aisle in her overly large boots, and getting in my way, she carries a basket containing own-brand yoghurt and a bag of carrots. We go our own ways, but as so often happens we meet in another aisle. Her shopping has increased by one small wholemeal loaf and a bottle of supermarket vodka. She is selecting an unwaxed lime with great care, holding it up to the light and turning it to see all sides.

 

years have passed

since you last danced

one perfect lime

 

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From the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral

The Scone Chronicles – Number 7 – Done as a Haibun

As usual, there is a queue at the cafe in Sainsbury’s at Arnold. The woman behind the counter is working hard but the system is against her. So is the customer she is serving, who can’t make his mind up.

I have two scones – one cheese, one fruit. Julia sticks with a single cheese scone. We select them, then we wait in line. They are small, neat and hexagonal.

Eventually I go to find a table because my knee is playing up.

The first two tables are too dirty to clean by wiping with a paper napkin. The third is passable, but dirty underneath. They have at least four staff and I’m not impressed. I think of writing a stiffly worded letter of complaint but it won’t do any good and the insincere reply will annoy me even more.

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A dirty floor – Sainsbury’s, Arnold

The cheese scone feels hard as I slide the knife in. It is not a light and fluffy scone, though I had expected this from the small and regular shape.

There are specks of visible cheese, and it tastes good.

The fruit scone is moist inside, in a doughy way, rather than a good way. It still tastes good but looks strange in the camera viewfinder.

A slightly doughy fruit scone

A slightly doughy fruit scone

At one time we would have ordered the cream tea but we are getting too old for all the sugar and fat.

evening draws on

the rotund blogger

photographs his food

 

 

The Duckpond

Several of you have expressed an interest in seeing some of my haiku/haibun. I realise this is a sign of kindness rather than a burning desire to read self-edited poetry of variable quality, but I do appreciate it.

I’m afraid I’m not very forthcoming, because I tend to write for magazine publication and, occasionally, for competition. They generally don’t accept work that has already been seen, and as I never seem to have enough material that’s good enough to submit it makes it hard to find something to show.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation – I can’t show the best ones and I don’t want to show you the second quality ones.

As a compromise, if you follow this link to Wales Haiku Journal and scroll down to The Duckpond, you can read my latest haibun.  If you are a regular reader you may recognise the pond, and the trolley.

Part of the problem is the time they need to mature. I’m currently working on pieces that were written three or four months ago. My last attempt on the blog was written in haste and didn’t quite work.

I’m sure there is a way round it, and will apply myself to searching. Maybe I need a 100 Day Haibun Challenge…

A Haibun

I’m watching TV and typing on my laptop. I am thus able to blog, watch TV and develop a Repetitive Strain Injury at the same time.

Currently, I’m pondering the question of haibun. Having spent ages labouring over villanelles and sonnets, and often discarding the malformed results, it seems like cheating to call a haibun a poem. It is, after all, only a few lines of text and up to seventeen syllables of haiku. The main challenge isn’t the poetry, it’s the brevity.

You could probably write a blog post, add a haiku and call the whole thing a haibun. In fact, I know you can, because that’s what I’m about to do.

 

waking stiff

too old to doze in chairs

another sign

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Sharing Our Horizon

 

Sharing our Horizon: A Journey Through the Scottish Highlands with Two Adopted Whippets by [Tran, Xenia]

(Cover photo taken from Amazon)

Paperback: 84 pages

Publisher: Holistic Linguistics (30 Sept. 2018)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1916470424

ISBN-13: 978-1916470422

Paperback: £9.99    Kindle: £5.99

Written by Xenia Tran, who may be better known to users of WordPress as the author of Whippet Wisdom.

First, a disclaimer – my Kindle only does black and white so I can’t tell you what the pictures look like in colour. They are good, dynamic shots in monochrome, so I expect they will be as good or better in colour.

There are 59 poems in this book, which makes it a proper collection, with an identity and a life of its own. A lot of the books I’ve bought recently have been a bit sparse to say the least and have failed to pass this test.

My initial reaction on reading the book was that the haibun and longer poems were the best parts and the haiku were, surprisingly, trailing behind. I’ve re-read the book twice and revised my opinion slightly – I still think the haibun and the longer poems (up to 44 words) are the best of the book but the haiku are looking a lot better now.

I think this was probably a case of it being easy to overlook haiku when there are more substantial pieces to read, and when you are keen to read it to the end and see what it contains. A slower re-reading gives the haiku more chance to work on the reader. To be fair the real point is that I should read more slowly, rather than that the haiku are at fault.

So there you go, a good read and much better than the average offering. I’m looking forward to the next book now.

There is more information here if you want it.

A Good Start to the Week

Just thought I’d mention that if you happened to be browsing Haibun Today there are a couple of haibun in there under my name (Wilson, that is, not Quercus).

I was just looking through links, deciding which editor to inflict my next group of submissions on, when I remembered that they should be out. They are, and I had a pleasant moment seeing my name in print. In fact, there have been intermittent feelings of happiness all day, with a touch of smugness now and again.

It’s a mixed feeling. I’m happy to see them published, but I’m also slightly embarrassed because there are far better ones published in the same edition and am now thinking that I really should do better.

It’s similar to the problem I’m having with my next round of submissions. When I had nothing published I had nothing to lose. Now that I have had a couple of acceptances I have a standard to compare myself to, and work that would at one time have been sent out, is now sitting in a file because I’m now not sure it’s good enough.

I suppose this is fear, and fear is why we don’t do things. It’s good in some ways, because I’ve avoided lions, poisonous snakes and bungee jumping, which are all potentially fatal. However, the fear of foreign travel, salad and failure may well have held me back from a more interesting life. I do try to see failure as a step on the way to success, but it can be hard.

I am now going to look at my name in print again. Despite my misgivings there are worse things to do.

The photos have nothing to do with the subject of the post, but everyone loves a baby seal, apart from fishermen and furriers, so I thought I’d use it again. The seagulls are just there because I decided I wanted a floating bird of the day.

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Black-headed Gulls in winter plumage