Category Archives: haibun

Day 140

I’ve just been looking at a recent haibun, which I had thought I might reprint it in the blog. When I looked at it I found that, despite it being accepted and published, and despite my various edits and improvements before submission, it still has faults. It’s strange how that happens. There are at least two corrections needed in the space of 200 words. I suppose this will always be the problem with written work. It seemed finished when I submitted it, but the faults are clear and jarring.

Looking at it with fresh eyes shows more clearly what an editor may see when looking at my work. They aren’t even complicated faults – one being a fault with rhythm and one being a repeated word.

The piece I have used, could be better, and I have had a couple of thoughts for improvement, but nothing leaps out at me immediately. I’m now wondering about the idea of leaving everything for an extra three months before submitting it.

 

Quiet Corner

As a child, I attended a village school where the playground shared a wall with the churchyard. On one side of the wall we played and shouted. On the other, a line of small mossy memorials marked the graves of babies. Having grown up knowing that I had a sister who had died before I was born, I accepted, as did most people, that babies died. Years later, staring in wonder at my firstborn, I would think about those stones again, the tiny bodies that they covered, and from a new perspective, the parents.

snail shells
the song thrush uses gravestones
for an anvil

First Published Blithe Spirit February 2022

Day 104

I fell asleep in front of TV. The fire was on and the chair was comfortable. What more can I say?

I had three non-acceptances yesterday – one from a magazine and two from a competition. After doing well in competition last year I had hopes again for this year, and my entries were, I thought, better than last year. The winning entries, unfortunately for me, were also better, and far better than mine. Such is life. The magazine rejection was not unexpected.

That leaves me at nine acceptances and three rejections for the year, which is still satisfactory. Even better, I have a number of poems which are now free for resubmission to other places – this is my writing system and it is good to get it back into operation. After the double illness last year the system stopped, as I lost the continuity. It’s good to have some material in reserve again.

Beach Huts – Southwold

I think I’ve probably covered this before, but a lot of my acceptances have had several rejections before they succeed. Many of the successes, to be fair, are very different from their original form – forged in the heat of rejection, if you like.

Inevitably they become shorter and often assume the form of a short prose piece followed by a haiku. I don’t remember the proper Japanese term, but it has developed over the years, even over the few years I have been writing them seriously, and is almost the standard form.

I find it a bit dull, when there are some many other structures, but that’s just how it is. Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to be published in an American magazine unless you adhere to this form, and to several other fashionable ideas. What were guidelines a few years ago, are almost rules now.

On Dunwich beach

Of course, the older rambling prose interspersed with multiple haiku can be pretty dull too. They used to be known as “pearls from mudbanks” haibun – flashes of brilliance concealed in a heap of words. I’ve read a few of them this month too, and they can be great, but often aren’t. That was the style I used to write fifteen years ago. None of them were published. After a twelve year rest I came back ith shorter haibun. I’m now trying to make them longer.

And thus we come to a crossroads. Do I alter my writing style to fit fashion, or do I carry on doing what seems right and wait for fashion to change?

I have ambition to improve, and write better, but no particular inclination towards fame and fortune, so i can afford to wait. After all, as I’ve said before, I write because I enjoy it and only submit to magazines because it’s a form of quality control. It’s nice to know that I’m writing to an acceptable standard, but I try to take a balanced view of rejection. A couple of years ago I used to compose acerbic replies to editors in my head. These days I just shrug and edit.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Day 35

I had an email today, and I’m happy. For the next month I am going to be on the front page of contemporary haibun online. It feels a bit like being famous, as I’ve actually heard of the other two who are on there. However, to drift back from dreams of fame and success for a moment, if you are reading this in March, you will ned to use this link as I fade back into obscurity and gradually become part of the clutter at the back of the internet.

I’ve just realised that I’m back in drifting sands haibunI had been rejected for the last two issues but manged to pull something out of the bag for this one. It was mainly written before I became ill in the autumn and I managed to get it polished just in time. Same with the cho submission. Now I just need to get back in my stride for the spring.

I’ve developed some bad habits while I’ve been taking a rest from writing – spending too much time on eBay for instance, and thinking about the problems of the world. I need to get back to poetry and away from real life.

Last night Julia kept twitching in bed, and every time she did so, the covers acted like bellows, drawing cold air across my shoulders and waking me up. It wasn’t all bad, because as I lay awake I invented a new way of keeping warm at night.

Unfortunately, in the cold light of dawn, I realised that the Reheating Hot Water Bottle  wasn’t going to be a goer. It would have been OK in the 1920s when it would have been fine to link a container of water to the mains electricity, using that braided brown flex favoured by our grandparents. But Julia doesn’t think they would allow it now. She also points out that electric blankets are easier and safer and if I feel cold in bed maybe I should buy one and stop waking her at 6am to discuss my ideas for new inventions. I’m afraid she isn’t always open to new ideas, like the one I had about her adding “the famous poet” after every mention of my name. I mentioned that after showing her the cho page. She’s not keen . . .

The top picture is one of Simon Wilson, the famous poet.It’s the unedited version of the one in cho and you can clearly see that my “office” includes a microwave, a kettle and a coin cabinet.

 

 

 

Day 31

It didn’t seem natural to begin with, but numbering instead of titling the posts now seems normal, and saves time. However, unlike a finely crafted pun or alliteration there is little satisfaction to be gained from just writing a number. I may have to reconsider later in the year.

All my submissions are in and there is still an hour to spare. It isn’t the best way of doing things, but it certainly got me moving. Five submissions in three days, and some of them weren’t even written at this time last night. I think we can say that the pressure got me writing again. I’m just contemplating using the time difference between here and the USA to my advantage, but that might be overdoing it.

I now need to update my submissions log. I also need to write the submissions plan for the coming year. Then I need to sort out my haiku and tanka. Because they don’t have titles, and because I’ve taken my eye off the ball, I have lost control of them and don’t know what’s what. That was one of the reasons I had to write new tanka, I just can’t remember where I’ve sent some of the existing ones before, and I can’t recall every accepted one.

Time for bed now, and the admin and other problems can wait.

Here is the Larkin poem – it’s not quite as good as I remember it, but then I have deteriorated with the passing of the years. It was originally in Failed Haiku Number 62 and there are a few notes about it here and here.

Hidden Worlds

He wears a grey gaberdine and rides a bicycle from church to church.
In his head he composes poems about sex and tombs. On YouTube he
flickers in black and white, like a newsreel from the 1950s. Smiles are
clearly still on ration.

Larkin used more bad language than you normally expect from a
librarian. This becomes understandable when you find that he started
his day with half a bottle of sherry.

monochrome photo
my parents younger than me
1963

The header picture is the sort of picture I think a poet should have -, not like the pale and washed out old codger that actually appears in my biographical notes.

 

Day 30

In terms of creativity and industry things haven’t worked out that well. In other ways it has been  a pleasant and relaxing day. This qualifies it as a tick in the “good day” column of the celestial ledger, and I am now bringing it to a close with a smile on my face.

Normally I like to approach a deadline with plenty of material already written and refined. My deadline is 31st January which is tomorrow (for the next 22 minutes, when it will become “today”.

Fortunately, last time I had a rejection all the ten haiku had been written a few days before submission so I was able to look at them again and make improvements (I know I ought to give time for them to mature, but it always seems like I don’t have enough). I’m hoping that one will be acceptable this time round.

Submitting to editors is an art and not a science. What works with one editor doesn’t necessarily work with another and many of my poems have been accepted after two or three rejections. The best example I have is my haibun about Philip Larkin. I’ll add it at the bottom of post if I can find it. That haibun went out four times and came back four times. I tinkered a little each time to tighten it up, but didn’t change it too much. The fourth time it came back I sent it out again the next day and had it accepted in two days. Which goes to show that you can never tell what is around the corner. I have seen interviews where established writers have sent out poems a lot more than that. I don’t have that sort of confidence. After three or four failures I usually retire them.

However, I’ve been trawling through them today, looking for pieces that are good enough to send out. I’ve found three, polished them, and sent them out and am now looking for three more. After that I just need to write ten tanka in the next 23 hours and I’m laughing.

There are several more deadlines that I decided to ignore. One journal has been rejecting me constantly since a change of editor, for instance, and another is fond of heavy-handed editing. I’m going to give them a miss this month and catch them next time they come round.

In fact, I’d better get back to work – ten tanka won’t write themselves.

Later, far too much later on a work night, I have all three of the next batch of haibun assembled, and I realised I forgot the Larkin piece. I will search it out tomorrow.

 

Four Day Holiday – Shopping for a Month

I finally lost my self-control and added a large pork pie to the Christmas food  order. Well, I haven’t had one for months and Christmas seemed like the ideal excuse. I’m going to make up for it by having more soup. Tootlepedal suggested celery and Stilton cheese and it sounds like a good idea. All I need to  do is persuade Julia. She’s not keen on celery. I am.

It’s fair to say that despite all my efforts I have manged to buy enough food for ten days (apart from fresh bread), so it should last us for what is basically just a long weekend. It’s fortunate that I have been making soup because I’m likely to have plenty of turkey and vegetables to use up. That’s probably the best bit of Christmas. I like sitting round, and I like a good roast dinner, but most of all I like turkey sandwiches.

Goosanders

That’s one of the good things about a turkey crown – plenty of meat and not much skeleton. It used to be hard, in the old days of whole turkeys, to escape the impression that you were some sort of serial killer as you laboured over a big pot of bones and boiling water. Turkey soup and turkey curry are OK, but it’s far easier just to have cold meat or sandwiches without all that bother.

Marsh Tit, I think

Two days ago, I submitted a haibun, expecting an answer some time in the New Year. It’s the first real submission I’ve done since September (the October one was a bit of a mess) and I have been sitting here gradually  leaking confidence. When then answer came back, I wasn’t hopeful. Quick answers are usually bad news. This one, for a change, wasn’t. Not only am I accepted but the editor in question didn’t ask for any alterations. I’m already feeling much more positive about 2022.

Now all I need to do is sort out my submission schedule and set myself some targets.

Photographs are from Rufford Abbey in December 2016, in the days when I could walk and take photos.

Cormorant

Slowing Down, Taking Stock

Things are stuttering along. It is, as before, a zig-zag course towards improvement and today, after submitting my first piece for some time, I am once again wondering why I bother writing.

I’m clear on magazine articles. I don’t do many of them, but I do it for the money.

Poetry is different. I’ve been sent one or two free copies of magazines and have had two certificates, but the rewards of writing poetry are mainly spiritual.

At the moment, I’m thinking of stopping submitting so much. I can dress this up as spiritual renewal or an issue of quality over quantity, but in truth, I’m just getting a bit fed up with some of the editors I have to deal with.

Most of them are brilliant (though even the brilliant ones often turn me down – nobody is perfect) with a positive attitude, open minds and helpful comments.

Others are a bit on the academic side and a touch prescriptive. I won’t get too specific, as they all work hard to produce the magazines we rely on, and I don’t want to criticise anyone personally. However, one or two seem to get their preferences mixed up with the “rules” of writing Japanese poetry forms. Even the various societies, with their panels of experts, don’t produce rules, just guides. These also often edit what I consider to be my voice. I write as I speak, and if I want to use an expression from the midlands of the UK, I don’t see why it needs to be ironed out by an American with an academic background in English.

Meanwhile, there is the group of editors who want to be excited by my submissions. I write about my life. It’s not exciting. I’m unlikely to display the qualities required by these editors.

I have limited time at the moment, and have decided to use it more wisely. One submission has gone. The other, with its manufactured false excitement and linguistic fireworks, will stay in the draft section. Eventually, as it matures, it will be used, or dismantled for use in other work.

But it won’t be sent out this week to curry favour with an editor who wants me to be something I’m not.

My Orange Parker Pen

 

 

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

Back to Normal

Things are about back to normal now. I am still sticking to one sandwich for lunch and work seems OK, though I’m still having difficulty remembering where things are. This isn’t helped by the fact that the owner decided to “tidy up” while we were all off (he spent some of his isolation time working in the shop), Why he thinks that moving stock into random places without telling anybody is an improvement, I do not know. However, it’s his time he’s wasting, not mine.

My legs are still a bit weak after weeks of enforced rest but I am making progress on that.

I struggled to submit anything in September, but did manage a few things (mainly things that were already written and just needed tidying). I have three poems in Cattails this month – pages 86, 89 and 133 if you fancy a look.

I have also had acceptances from three other magazines (though only one will be available online) and will no doubt mention it again when it is published.

At one point, when I was really struggling to string words together, I actually thought I’d run to the end and would never write again. Fortunately that passed off after a week, as I don’t know what I’d do to replace it. At the moment I’m not writing much because I mainly work, eat, watch TV and go to bed early. I’m still sleeping off the Covid.

It is probably time to prepare a plan to make sure I spend my time wisely. However, for now I will just sleep.

 

 

A Pleasant Surprise, a Haibun and another Senior Moment

Today, the 19th of September 2021, I had  pleasant surprise. I opened up Drifting Sands Haibun and found my haibun on the front page. I added the date because it will change over time. We are due for a new issue soon and it will change. But for a short while, I was there. Forgive my unseemly glee, but after being accepted a number of times it is difficult to set a new target, and getting to the front page of Drifting Sands was one that I had set myself.

For those of you reading this too late to see it on the front page, you can try here. Don’t get too excited, I think I posted the link before. It’s just the one about the crow and the ants.

Now, I know you are all wondering what I have done in the matter of Senior Moments. Well, some months ago, I had trouble with my emails, and nearly missed some emails from an editor. We managed to sort that out, but didn’t actually find the cause. Last week I finally started looking at my submission diary (remember I have been ill/lazy for a month) and realised that I should have had some contact from editors. I checked up and found that I had a haiku in a magazine. This was a surprise, but more evidence of the fact that I wasn’t getting emails, or I would have known it was being published.

This set up a panic reaction, because I don’t want to miss the chance of publication, or have editors think that I am rude or inefficient. I am both, but I don’t want people to think it . . .

I have just spent my afternoon writing to the editors who may have emailed me, explaining what happened. It’s a tricky email to write (three times) because there is always the chance that they may not have thought me worth responding to.

Earlier in the week I started to realise what I had done but, prodding around with my email controls in an unstructured and ill-informed way, managed to make it worse. Anyway, I have finally found the answer and corrected it.

I had reset my spam controls a couple of months ago to block a particularly irritating advertiser. In doing so, I had also added gmail to my list of blocked domains. This was clearly a bad move. However, it is unblocked now, explanations have been sent and I am a wiser man.

 

 

Words . . .

I’ve been learning new words this week. The best was logorrhoea, from Derrick. It sounds worse than it is and merely means wordiness or “extreme loquacity”. I would have said sesquipedalian myself, had I been in sophisticated mood. Or motormouth if I had been in my normal mode, though the meanings are slightly different. The advantage of sesquipedalian is that I can spell it. The advantage of logorrhoea is to be found in my rhyming dictionary. There is , literally, an embarrassment of riches to be found in there (though I had already managed the less tasteful ones without the help of the dictionary). My only reservation is that the dictionary omits pyorrhoea. It does, however, include pizzeria Tanzania and Ikea.  When I finally get round to it that’s going to be a heck of a Limerick . . .

I also learned prosimetrum,  It’s a word that is so little used that my spell checker doesn’t recognise it. It’s a piece of writing that combines prose and poetry. Yes, I was reading about haibun in an attempt to become a better writer of them. More specifically, prosimetrum is a form where the verse dominates. The form where prose dominates is versiprose. This seems the wrong way round to me, but that’s what Wikipedia says and I can’t find anything to contradict it, mainly because I can’t find anything when I search for versiprose. I’m suspicious that someone is just making words up.

You have to wonder how much knowledge is necessary before you can start to write something. As I’ve shown, I can write prosimetrum without knowing what it is. I can, after all, not explain the niceties of the Otto Cycle, but I have been successfully driving cars for the last 45 years.