Category Archives: haibun

Jentacular Spectacular

I imagine that all proper writers are currently walking in the countryside, writing , or at work wishing they were doing either of the other two. I am having my customary Monday off, and sm wasting my time playing Nine Men’s Morris on the computer.  However, I have taken a grip of myself and am now writing after squandering most of the last 100 minutes on games and emails and checking eBay.

The post has just arrived so I will pick that up and on the way back I might as well put the kettle on. I’m not expecting anything good in the post so it will only be bills and circulars, but any displacement activity is welcome to a keyboard loafer.

On the way to the kettle I noticed we had a single wrap left in the bag. We have been keeping a few in as they stop us running out of breadlike substances for packed lunches. One isn’t much use though, They make a very good substitute for an oatcake so I thought while I was waiting for the kettle to boil I might as well stick a bit of bacon in this one and thus clean up the kitchen a bit. I added mushrooms, because we have quite a lot of them too, four small tomatoes which are going a bit soft, and a spring onion, cut in half and then sliced lengthways. When cooked and wrapped it did indeed make a passable substitute for an oatcake. I now feel much more able to face the day and do some work.

My Orange Parker Pen

The post wasn’t quite useless, as it contains my copy of Poetry Review. The outer, which looks like it is compostable, though it doesn’t actually say so, contains the magazine plus a number of extras – a copy of Poetry News, which I normally skim and recycle, a flyer for the Winchester poetry Prize, which I won’t enter, a Bloodaxe Catalogue and the Winners’ Anthology for the National poetry Competition. I’ll read the Bloodaxe catalogue and dream about being in it, and I’ll read the anthology so that I can feel affronted that, once again, I didn’t even make the long-list. However, after my recent success in the BHS competition I am content.

Can anyone answer a grammar question while you are here? Is it a Winners’ Anthology, as it doesn’t belong to them, or is it a Winners Anthology because its’s an anthology by more than one winner?

You can read the winners here.

And, of course, there is Poetry Review. It’s a serious magazine full of serious poems. It contains essays, translations and reviews. I confess that I don’t always read it all. I’m going to read some of it before lunch, then I’m going to write Limericks. Once my mind is receptive to lightness again I have haiku to write, as I am suffering a haiku deficiency and my haikuless haibun collection is crying out for closure.



Ups and Downs

It was another day of manic activity as we kept getting orders from the new sales initiative. I quite like the active days, though it would be nice to have a little variation in pace.

The day started off with my second failed blood test in two weeks. I am consistently coming in too high and actually climbing as they seek to adjust the dose downwards. I’m not sure why this is happening but I suspect it might b because I started making an effort to do things properly. Instead of drifting on and forgetting to take my pills or taking them late, I am establishing a routine and I wonder if this means I have effectively increased the does without meaning too. I’m not taking supplements, I haven’t changed any medication and I haven’t ben eating huge amounts of green vegetables, which can all affect it. Whatever has caused it, the slow reduction by one tablet a week, as they have done this week, isn’t going to see it corrected any time soon.

Yesterday, I had an email headed “Congratulations”. Normally I’m wary of them because they usually contain details of how lucky I am to have been chosen to launder the estate of a deceased African politician. Presumably, the way things have been going, they will soon be inviting me to launder the estates of corrupt Tory supporters who have amassed illicit millions by making PPE for the NHS.

This one was from the British Haiku Society. I entered their annual competition and the results are out. According to the results there were 587 haiku, 164 tanka and 71 haibun entered. I am one of the top five haibun. I wasn’t 1st or 2nd but I did get an Honourable Mention which means I have a certificate and a free book.

The strange thing is that  the one I did all the work on made no impact but the successful one was one which had only been returned by an editor the week before. I tweaked it a bit, in line with his comments, and sent it off to the competition. It just goes to show, as I have said before, that I am not a good judge of my own writing.


Twelve Ideas

Lat night I wrote a list of ideas when I was looking for subjects to write about.  I ended up with eleven, which grew to twelve when I decided to write about writing a list of things to write about. Ideas, as I may have said before, are not difficult to come by. I could probably have thought of 20-30 more, but I find that having too many ideas is not always a good thing. If you have too many the quality tails off and you never get to the end of the list.

I meant to start using them last night but by the time I’d written the blog post and edited work in progress, I ran out of energy. This morning I started with some reading and commenting and have just looked at the list un front of me.

Twelve ideas became ten because two are undecipherable. That became  eleven when I remembered what one of them was, and twelve when I decided that writing about bad handwriting could replace the idea I couldn’t read.

As I said, I don’t lack ideas, just the ability to turn ideas into results. I think I may have told you we once had a meeting on the farm and someone said, with a perfectly straight face, “My talent is having ideas, rather than doing things. If you want any ideas I have plenty of them.”

If you’ve ever been on a committee I think you probably agree that talk and ideas are never in short supply. One person putting one idea into action, that’s what’s in short supply.

On that subject, what happens next? Well, I have twelve ideas. You are reading the result of one of them. Four of them have moved on to be the prose sections of haibun. Three of them now have lines of poetry attached. Two of them will become blog posts. One, I have not developed, but will do. The twelfth, which was going to be about the trials of being a prince with a trophy wife and a massive trust fun, doesn’t really appeal. I am going to cross that one off. Sometimes you realise you just don’t want to develop an idea.

The next stage is typing the haibun prose and the first drafts of the blog posts. Some results will be good, some not so good. It’s all a process of natural wastage. Eventually twelve ideas will be turned into a few finished pieces and the rest will be used as spare parts for other things.


Haibun – Another Place, Another Time

This is a haibun that was published in The Haibun Journal. It’s a print journal and I wasn’t able to link to the haibun at the time as they don’t appear online. I thought its time had come, because  the Six Nations Championship is underway so the subject of rugby seemed appropriate. It’s also a bit of light relief at a time of lockdown and news about irrelevant royalty.

It is set in Mrs Botham’s Tearoom in Whitby. They don’t generally have a harpist, but they did on this particular visit.  I enjoyed eating crab sandwiches whilst listening to harp music. In my mind the haibun is dedicated to the two ex-players in the tearoom who both smiled and whispered to their long-suffering wives when the tune started.

I learned a lesson in persistence for this submission. I submitted three haibun and had one accepted, which is general practice as most magazines only take one haibun per writer per issue. Sometimes, of course, they don’t take any.

One of the rejects was sent out straight away with a quick spruce up, I agreed to a couple of edits and it appeared in an online journal shortly after. The other was sent out three more times before being accepted last week..

I think this is the only time I’ve managed to place an entire submission of three – normally I give up if one keeps coming back.

Botham’s Whitby

Another place, another time

We climb the stairs to the tearoom above the cake shop. The presence of a stairlift reveals much about the age of the clientele.

In the subdued lighting, we move back to a time of elegance. People pour their tea from plated teapots emblazoned with the teashop name. Hot water jugs are de rigeur. In the corner a harpist plays.

The tune she was playing was, my wife said, with a note of warning in her voice, called The Ash Grove, but I remembered it better as a traditional rugby song about the Mayor of Bayswater. He had, as I recall, a pretty daughter. Judging by several strained expressions around the place, I was not the only one. It was like a trumpet call to an old warhorse.

wives’ fixed smiles
the husbands remember
past glories

First published in The Haibun Journal October 2020


Botham’s, Skinner Street, Whitby


Stairlift at Botham’s tearoom, Whitby

My Favourite Day

It i now just after midday and it is probably time to take stock.

I delivered Julia to work this morning. Traffic was heavier than usual, which was probably due to the return to school, though it could just be that Monday is usually busier in general. I have no way of measuring, but the queue in a couple of places was a little longer than usual.  It might just appear heavier because I was expecting it to be. I really ought to devise an accurate system of measurement.

On the way back I went to Lidl as we need bread and I like their bakery. I’ve been avoiding it lately, but you have to go out at some time.

As usual, I observed some selfish parking. A single man in a Range Rover parked in a parent and child space (we didn’t have them in my day, we just had to learn how to control children and shopping at the same time!) I don’t see why anyone needs a Range Rover if they live in town. I don’t see why Range Rover owners can’t walk a few yards extra. And I definitely don’t know why he felt it necessary to park at an angle so that a corner of his vehicle jutted into the corner of the parking spot next to him. Somehow, I always asu8me that if you have the money to buy a big car and fuel it that you should know how to drive. I am clearly wrong.

Again, in the absence of a proper measuring system I can’t say this was the worst parking I’ve ever seen. How does it compare, for instance, with a small car parking across two disabled spaces whilst playing loud music? So many variables.

I bought the usual selection – sandwich baguettes, chocolate brownies, ham offcuts for sandwiches and mini cucumbers, which Julia likes with her sandwiches. She actually ordered some plants yesterday to grow her own this summer.

I then sat down to write. I finalised a selection of haiku, which needed to be sent before the 15th. That is now done. I’ve submitted to that magazine before and expect I will be making a contribution to my target of 100 rejections quite soon.

After that I settled down to some “ordinary” poetry. At the moment I’m writing by setting ideas down and adding to them. When they are about the right length I check I have everything I need – theme, detail, ambiguity- then I start pruning and refining. I have two or three on the go, in various stages of completion and it’s feeling good. I’m pinning a lot of hope on my ordinary poetry to bring in the 100 rejections.

I then twiddled around with ome tidying of folders, made a cup of tea, browsed the internet and skimmed a book that arrived last week. I answered a phone call from a very nice lady who wanted to help me extend the warranty of my washing machine. Regular readers, who know we use the launderette for washing, will realise she was unlikely to succeed, and thi proved to be the case.

That’s it for now. I’m going to make lunch, using a liquidised vegetable stew and I will then start rounding up some haiku for another submission. If I get that done, I will have a go at refining some haibun and writing a couple of new prose sections.

After I pick Julia up I will have come full circle and that brings us back to the chocolate brownies. I will miss my Mondays when I have to go back to full-time work.

Orange Parker Pen


Tests and Targets

Sunday morning – 10.31 am – and Julia’s phone just bleeped. Twenty four hours after posting th samples she is, once again, negative.  This good news, as I have had a bit of a dry cough at times this week and was worried about it being the dreaded covid cough. However, if she is negative I probably am, so all is good.

She just mentioned, as I chatted to her whilst typing, that my appetite has seemed unaffected by anything this week, which is another sign I am probably not infected. I’m not sure I liked her tone…

After reading the article I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been seriously thinking about how much writing I would have to do to manage 100 submissions a year. In the last six months I have managed 26 submissions. It looks like I could mange 52 submissions a year which is a handy one a week. By doubling my output I will hit the 100. Simple.

Unfortunately for the target of 100 rejections I have had 11 acceptances. Even if the quality of my work deteriorates badly with the increased output I’m likely to have to write even more to hit target.

At that point I have to consider the question of markets. There are some haiku/haibun magazines I haven’t tried yet, for a variety of reasons. There are also some that will accept more submissions than I currently send. The more I think of it, the more I am starting to feel lazy because I don’t submit 100 pieces a year.

It just goes to show you should be careful what you browse on the internet, and, what you think about after reading it. Two days ago I was content, now I’m not so sure. This blog started as a way of getting me back into writing, and it seems to have done that.  I have moved on to other targets, and it seems to be going OK. I even have  a plan for the coming year.

Orange Parker Pen

The original plan was to get 24 haiku/senryu accepted, 18 haibun and three articles. The haibun figure is about what I am doing at the moment, as long as I write consistently instead of taking a few months off here and there. The haiku/senryu target is based on writing and submitting more – I’ve been a bit lazy there, but I need to sharpen up my skills to write better poems for the haibun. The articles? Well, I decided that I also need to sharpen up my skills in knowing more about  the forms I write and the way I do it. A target for articles seemed like a good way to make me focus.

Now. only a couple of months after setting those targets, I’m starting to question them. As the result of wandering into a random internet page, I’m thinking of more ambitious goals.

The word Icarus, is coming to mind. There are several poems about Icarus This is one of the less well known ones, but probably my favourite. However, where is the fun in not flying close to the sun?

And that’s about it. I can’t spend all day chatting on the blog when I have two submissions a week to make. I only have four planned for this month so I have to find four more and then I have to write them.

The pictures, as usual these days, have little bearing on the text.

Allium Flower

Vaccination Stories and Haibun Stuff

Just when you think that life isn’t silly enough, along comes a new story. The Mencap Facebook group was  pinging all afternoon yesterday. They have all been going for vaccinations. One of them nearly fainted when he saw the needle and had to have a lie down before they could vaccinate him. Another was vaccinated by a vet, who said she stayed still better than his usual clients.

Apart from that the big news of the day is that I have a new haibun out in Drifting Sands.  I’m not really happy with it, as I tried  a few new things and it isn’t really me.  I’ve been reading the work of too many experimental and modern poets.

This is a decision helped along by a bit of counting. I noticed a writer claiming in his biographical notes, that he has had “dozens” of poems published. Well, I had ten in my previous incarnation as a poet, around 15 years ago, and according to my recent count, I can add another 24. That’s dozens. Having seen someone else use the term I now feel like it’s a bona fide milestone, and I can now relax a bit.

It only seems like yesterday my writing seemed to have stalled and I worried about nobody accepting my 13th piece. It was actually, if you add the earlier ten, my 23rd piece, so no superstition should have been attached. It was also my 24th piece because it turned out that I had miscounted. It’s amazing what you can worry about.

I’m also in Failed Haiku this month. Page 179 – a senryu and a haibun.  It’s about  80% of the way through so it’s easier to start from the end if you want to scroll through looking. Originally it had a line about my debt to Larkin’s  Annus Mirabilis, but the editor has left it out. I wasn’t sure where allusion ends and plagiarism begins, but I think I’m on the right side of the line, even without the line in. It’s better without the acknowledgement anyway – it’s easy to start looking pretentious if you add explanation.

Oh dear, I’m in danger of sounding like I know what I’m doing…


Luck and Persistence

Do you remember the post I did a while ago with the haibun about the elderly lady shopping for vodka? It was called “Murder your Darlings”, which is what I did,. Once I published it on the blog it was no longer of interest to most haibun magazines as they require previously unpublished work.

It hadn’t gained acceptance after several tries so I put it on the blog because I liked it and wondered if this was why no editor did. It’s standard wisdom in writing circles that if you like something too much it is probably pretentious and rubbish.

Do you also remember a post recently called  “Thoughts on Poetry and Bacon?” It’s not one of my more high-brow titles. That was the one where I talked about the poet working like a car breaker to salvage useful bits for future work.

We now cut to last Saturday, when, as I told you, I had an acceptance. I think I only told you about it yesterday because I left it a few days to damp down the smugness. The Saturday acceptance was actually for three poems from a batch of four, and they weren’t Japanese style poems, they were of the style I refer to as “ordinary poems”. One (“D H Lawrence Wonders What’s for his Tea”) is scheduled for next month, the other two for May. One of the May poems is about an elderly lady buying vodka in the supermarket (sound familiar?). I re-used the character and the incident, recast it as free verse and lost the haiku.

The piece that wasn’t accepted was a haibun about Philip Larkin. I always try to send a haibun out to ordinary poetry magazines just in case they are looking for something unusual. They always send it back. To be fair – they also send all the other poems back too.

On Sunday I was looking for bits that might interest Failed Haiku and looked at the Larkin haibun. I’d just been reading Larkin’s Annus Mirabilis and a haiku came to me. It was much better than the one in the returned haibun. I also took a severe line with re-editing and cut a third of it out. This was a surprise as I had thought I had pruned it as much as possible before sending it out last time.

To cut a long story short, they accepted a senryu and the haibun. The moral of this?

Probably that a good poem will always find a home, you just have to find the right form and the right editor. Or possibly that luck and persistence will beat talent every time

Thoughts on Poetry and Bacon

That’s Bacon the foodstuff, not the artist or the pioneer of frozen food.

I suppose, after all the events of the day, I should have spent the evening juggling with casseroles and torturing myself with self-doubt. However, I didn’t.

What’s hit is history, what’s missed is mystery, as the old ornithologists used to say. That’s a saying from the days when they used to shoot birds as a prelude to identifying them. Th same goes for submissions – what’s accepted is gone and what is rejected needs work. Or, possibly, a bin.

In some ways I’m more like a mechanic than a poet. The one that was returned yesterday, with comments,  is going to retain the original engine and chassis, but will be getting new bodywork and a respray. It will start out as an observational haibun and, probably, end up as a piece of fiction. It will still be a true piece about man and nature, but it will have fictional elements added for effect.

A second is in for a total rewrite. I’m going to keep the haiku and the original idea. All else will be new. The third of that batch will be completely dismantled. I will re-use several of the images to write haiku and park the rest in the file marked “Multiple Rejections”. It has, to be fair, been rejected three times, so the editors obviously agree. One day I might find a use for the carcase.

Nothing is ever wasted, it just isn’t used as originally intended.

Moving on to casseroles – the panhaggerty was a funny colour and the bacon had no flavour. I will be having it again as it’s easy to make, and because there’s enough left over for lunch. It was not as good as the normal vegetable stew we do, but it was quicker to prepare. Part of the problem may come from the fact that I over-browned the bacon. I think it also needs bacon bits rather than rashers. Not sure if you can still get bacon bits, I suspect they all go off to be cubed and sold as a premium product..

There’s another recipe I want to make, which I haven’t made for years. Instead of boiling for twenty minutes you cook it in the oven for 2 hours. That fact has always made me wonder if it’s worth it.

I will check online. Then I am off to write a book review…

The Day Declines and I Quote Kipling

It was all going too well. I made lunch (which included Ryvita crispbreads instead of ordinary bread), I washed up and I cooked the evening mal ready for when Julia returns. It’s panhaggerty, though I’m not going to melt the cheese on top – too much fat, too many calories….

This proved to be the high point of the day.

First, as I opened the fridge door a pyrex plate slid out and smashed on the floor. There were two cold sausages on it, so I invoked the ten second rule and threw them into a pan of hot fat to kill any bacteria from the floor. That meant I had to have  a sausage sandwich. So, smashed plate, glass all over the place and my diet gone for a Burton.

As I made the sausage sandwich  I looked down on the work surface and realised that I’d left the second layer of bacon out of the panhaggerty. I had to prod it down without disturbing the layers too much. Then, forgetting that I was only wearing socks, I walked across the badly swept area where the plate had smashed. Fortunately the bits I found were only small and they didn’t do any damage, just gave me a bit of a surprise.

Next, it was over to check emails as I ate the sandwich. Part of the sausage fell out o0nto the carpet. I really have been pushing the ten second rule to its limit.

I had two replies from editors. I always think that a quick reply indicates a rejection so I ate the sandwich first. No point in spoiling a good sandwich. The first on was an acceptance, though I sent off ten haiku and three haibun and only had one haiku accepted. It’s not great, but as I spent two years trying to get into the magazine, I’m happy to have had anything accepted at all.

The second one was from my nemesis, the editor who has never accepted anything I’ve ever sent him at either of the magazines he’s been editing when I’ve tried. In a way it’s a comfort to know that in a n ever changing Covid epidemic he still won’t accept any of my work. He did send a few pointers, which is always useful, and always a good sign when an editor takes the time to do it.

The only problem is that I left room for the reader to interpret, as we are advised to do, and he seems to have interpreted it in a way that I didn’t intend. Not quite sure what this means, but I’m left with the impression that my lack of clarity means I’m an even worse writer than mere rejection suggests. I spent several downcast minutes wondering whether to laugh or cry. Then I started laughing and made a cup of tea.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

Kipling might be old-fashioned and politically suspect, but he can still hit the nail on the head when it counts.