Category Archives: haibun

More Troubles, Plus a Poem

Logged into WP this morning – it wouldn’t let me in. I had to reset my password. Feeling annoyed and persecuted? Yes!

Read comments, replied. OK.

Came back at 8am – read a post, commented, clicked – all OK. Commented on a second post from same person – wouldn’t let me in.

Currently still locked out and still annoyed.

Cross? Yes.

Back to work tomorrow so half happy at recovery, half sad at loss of free time. However, if you cough and splutter and  sleep through much of it, it’s not all productive anyway.

Today, in terms of poetry, I have extracted six more Haibun/Tanka Prose that I had lost track of, which is good. Have read a book about writing poetry. Fell asleep. It’s a repeat reading of a book I originally marked as 3/5. Most of the examples used are from the poets own writing and are said to be prize-winning. I’m losing faith in poetry prizes.

This is a haibun I wrote a few years ago. It was a prize-winner. Well, it was commended and I got a certificate emailed to me.

Falling Into Place

years pass
children become strangers
—his new world

Jigsaws became an important part of our lives. First, as conversations became more difficult, we used them to pass the time. Later we used them to stimulate Dad’s thinking and slow the progress of the condition. Finally we used them to measure his decline. A man who once ran a company struggled with a jigsaw designed for a toddler. My sister bought new ones as they were needed, each with fewer pieces than the one preceding it.

He had been an active and successful man, and thousands of events had formed his life. Gradually they faded away. This frustrated him in the beginning but as he sank into the strange new world of dementia he came to accept it as a comforting place. I was happy to see him become contented. Then, one day, he asked me who I was.

the mirror cracks
a fractured smile

When we cleared his room my sister picked up the nine-piece jigsaws and suggested we donate them to the care home. She checked with me.

You don’t want them, do you?”

Not yet.” I said.

Back on WP I still can’t get into the comments. I’m going to have to get on to tech support. Normally I don’t have issues that last this long and it is getting very irritating. You could say it’s a first world problem and not as serious as starvation or infant mortality, which is fair. But I am paying a significant amount of money for my WP plan and they don’t always provide value.

Wollaton Hall, Nottingham. Or Wayne Manor in Dark Knight Rises. Read the link to see Gotham too.

A Short Productive Spell

Emails, Memories and my First Haibun

I’ve been searching in my emails. I have a lot of them, dating back to, 2010. They hold details of junior rugby fixtures, excuses from parents and troubles with booking referees. I kept some because they were important at the time, or because I was annoyed by them or, in most cases, because I have always been too lazy to keep control of my emails. There are mails from people who are now dead, people who I didn’t like, and people I don’t remember. Which, I wonder, is better – dead, disliked, forgotten? I don’t know why I still keep them. Last night I have dumped over 300, It is going to be a long job . . .

As I sort, memories return. Pompous nonentities carving out an empire when they should have been helping the kids, excuses for failing to help with catering, complaints about team selection. Even now, my head is filling with the discussions we used to have and all the old frustrations are starting to rise to the surface. Some of the memories are as irksome and stressful as the actual events were at the time and I am amazed at my capacity to harbour resentment.

I note the way the emails change from rugby to the farm, to poetry as my life progresses. I was looking for a poetry email, and after finding that I went on to browse. I found, to my amazement, that it is five years this month that I sent off my first Haibun to an online journal. Time soon passes.

It’s a hornet-mimicking hoverfly – Volucella inanis. To be fair, it’s more like a wasp. Common name is Wasp Plumehorn but a lot of people stick with the Latin.

So much has changed. I used to keep a folder of all my successes, a trick I learned from my father-in-law. I still have it somewhere but once acceptance becomes a regular thing you don’t need the folder to boost your confidence. In my case I still worry about becoming an overnight failure, but the submission process has become automatic, regardless of success or failure. I can still be cast down by  rejection, but it only lasts ten minutes these days. The imposter syndrome, however, persists. Michael Parkinson suffered from it too. It doesn’t get mentioned in his obituary  but his son has mentioned it in recent interviews. That tends to put things into perspective.

The folder of published work is something I must start doing again, as I have lost track of some things, as I said a few days ago.

Always more admin . . .

Late Summer is a time for Wasps

A Tale, Told by an Idiot

Do you remember a few days ago when I said ” from today I am going to set targets and become a writing machine”. Well I did. I set up my poem factory and set to work. I also found a few places to make more submissions and decided to target haiku. As a result, I had an acceptance today.

It’s part of the power of positive thinking. I was going to get rid of some books last week. They are mainly old sales and marketing books passed on by my Dad, but with some motivational books too.. Many of them are actually still relevant as good sales technique and positive thinking never goes out of fashion. There’s no mystique about it despite all the stuff that’s written. To make sales you ask the decision-maker for the order. To achieve success through positive thinking you do something, and you do it now.

That’s what I did – I wrote poems, I showed them to an editor and one was selected.

No jargon, no mystique, no spirituality, despite the reams of rubbish written on the subject. Just plain common sense.

The poem factory is a similar no nonsense set-up. It is anathema to all the proper, spiritual poets out there. They believe (and this is particularly true with haiku) that you should experience “a moment” and compose the poem there and then. Good on them. I’ve done it sometimes, but it’s not common.

Poems which are stitched together from memory or manufactured from two moments or, heaven forbid, simply made up, are known. scornfully. as desk-ku. It’s becoming slightly more common to admit to them now, but there’s still some snobbery on the subject. Even the old masters did them, but the myth of the haiku moment persists.

Anyway, I write a list of ideas or prompts, or open up  file of old photos, or even open a book of poetry and mine it for ideas. As T S Eliot said  “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” I am, I feel, perfectly capable of taking an idea from a poem without copying the idea or the wording of the poem.

This is one I took from life, rather than nature.

I have dustier piles – trust me on this

a pile of books
the dust settles on my
good intentions

(First Published in Failed Haiku – forgot the date.)

This one is from nature, and done in the moment, but it doesn’t really convey the misty morning and the salty wind as we walked and watched seals.

Sea Buckthorn. I promise you there were goldfinches too, but I couldn’t get a good shot.

calling from the sea buckthorn
bright berries

(First Published in Presence 71)

This one was completely made up, but all the bits were true. Robins sing, blackthorn blooms early in the year and at the time, during Covid, we were forced to queue outside shops. I wrote it after queuing for a shop. I needed some props so I added the bird, the song and the blackthorn. Does it make me a bad man?

a robin
sings from the blackthorn
we queue for the shop

(First published Wales Haiku Journal Spring 2021) 

Robin - singing

Robin – singing. OK, it’s in holly, but give me a break.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

(Macbeth, William Shakespeare).

I may start stealing from Shakespeare next. Let’s face it, he stole all the time.

Yet Another Acceptance and a Lot of Fruit

Sunday’s Second Post.

The good thing about one of the acceptances I had earlier in the month was the nine rejections. I think I’ve explained before that editors generally want a batch of ten tanka, and normally only select one. I have had more selected sometimes, but it always seems greedy when you are taking a space someone else would be happy to use. The nine returns were recycled – one being removed. Two were then added to the batch, which was sent out and, shortly after, provided the next acceptance (which was one of the ones that had been rejected by the previous editor). The second editor also named several they would like to see again in a few months if they are still available. They will be, because it seems  good thing to do. That means I have to wite four more to add to the batch and it can be my next submission.

In a similar vein, I have just received news of a Haibun acceptance. It’s the third time this particular Haibun has been out and it’s another slow burner as it seems to have been round for years. I worked on it for about a year and kept it back for a competition entry. It disappeared without trace, as most of my competition entries do, but I sent it out a couple more times and it has found a home. Sorry if this makes it sound like an adorable homeless kitten, but I do get attached to some of my poems.

In the past i have managed to place poems which have been turned down by as many as four editors, sometimes without even making changes. Once I even had one accepted within days of it being returned. And, in case you should think I am boasting, sometimes I haven’t. Sometimes I’ve had something returned two or three times, lost faith in it and allowed it to fade away.

I’ve read blogs by other poets who say they had things accepted after a dozen refusals, or that they are still trying years after they wrote something. I don’t have that level of confidence or fortitude. Or, to be honest, organisation.

Meanwhile, the fruit pictures are part of our harvest. The plums are doing well, the blackberries ditto, and the tomatoes are just coming into their own. We really must get a greenhouse when we move. The figs are a gift – not sure about the variety, but they aren’t Brown Turkey like the last lot. They are very sweet and so ripe you can just suck the contents out.  Photos are via Julia’s phone.

The Power of Planning 2

If you have come straight here, you my need to go back to what is Part 1. However, it isn’t listed as such because I didn’t know it was going to be  two-parter when I started. Or even when I finished, to be honest.

hat happened was that I drifted off at a tangent and didn’t realise I was going to want to revisit it.

So, the poetry plan. First we need a target that is Specific. We will go for the acceptance of 50 Japanese style poems and 25 “ordinary” ones. That’s four a month for the Japanese and two a month for the others.It’s not a huge target, as I’ve already had thirty one accepted in the last ten months.I’m thinking that I will end the 12 months on about 40. Fifty is not a big jump from there. The twenty five is a bigger jump, as I haven’t submitted any fr a couple of years, but at two a month I should be able to do that. To be more specific I am going to go for 20 Haibun/Tanka Prose, 20 Tanka and ten haiku. I’m not very good at haiku so that is probably the biggest challenge.

That’s specific done. Measurable is easy enough – acceptances of poetry submitted  in the months of August 2023 to July 2024. It can be a bit tricky measuring poetry as the lead time after acceptance can make counting tricky, which is why I’m counting acceptances.

I’ve already covered Achievable in the Specific category – none of the figures I’ve quoted are outrageous and I’m sure the Japanese figure is going to be realistic as I hardly submit any haiku at the moment. The other figure, the twenty five is a bit more speculative, but not unrealistic. I have lost count but I think when I was submitting free verse a few years ago I had bout ten accepted by decent journals.

My Orange Parker Pen

Realistic already seems to have been fully covered from the writing point of view. From the publishing point of view, there should be enough openings to get this number of poems published. There are some magazines where i do badly, as in always get knocked back, but there are enough to take fifty and I will just have to up my game and try harder to crack the others. That’s the thing with targets – with targets I try different magazines, without them I tend to withdraw to my comfort zone.

Time? Twelve months. I assumed that from the beginning.

I will now need to set my diary out for 12 months, including all the likely magazines and submission windows. Then I will have to remember to keep a total and compare it to the plan. That’s it. Simple.

Now let’s see what happens.

Stone on the Floor






A Pond in Poetry

Burntstump Country Park, Notts

First Published in Wales Haiku Journal Autumn 2020.

I’d alter it slightly if I were submitting it now, but always feel that once they are released into the world I shouldn’t tinker.

As published, it was about a third of its original length, the rest dwelling on the decline of great country houses after the Great War. I suppose a lot of poems have  a similar back story. The pond in the pictures is the pond I write about, though the yellow flags are just out of the picture. I may have done this one in the blog before – sorry if that is the case.

What the Water Sees

At the end of the woodland path a pond waits in the sunlight. It has been there for a century and a half.

Purple-flowered rhododendrons tumble down one bank, doubled by their reflection in the water. Today it is quiet, disturbed only by birdsong and the movement of water voles. It is a different place at weekends. Parents and dog owners shatter the peace with their yelling and the ducks are pelted with volleys of bread.

The pond remains unchanged. The scent of wild garlic drifts from the woods and a moorhen fusses round a stand of yellow flags.

a place in history
the shape of a vole
in water


Burnt Stump Country Park

It’s Dull and it Features Soup


Don’t say you weren’t warned . . .

As part of my new start I have reorganised my folders to make my writing more efficient. It nearly as useless as reorganising my sock drawer but it’s all about small changes at the moment. I’m hoping that a few small changes will be enough to give me a start.

There are two soups simmering on the hob. It will be mushroom tonight and spicy carrot and parsnip for several lunches. From this you can probably work out which vegetables are in plentiful supply. It looks like vegetable stew tomorrow too.

I’ve returned to my roots today (literally, in the case of the soup) and am looking at “ordinary” poems today. There are too many rules to writing haiku and the like and I’m feeling more relaxed now. I think I’ve covered this subject before. So many rules, so much “guidance”, so many editors laying down the law. In the end you think more about the rules than the words.

It’s just  a temporary thing until I adjust my thinking. I’ve allowed myself to get lost in a maze of other people’s making. It’s a funny thing, but the editors who have the most to say about what a haibun should be, are ones for whom I have little respect as poets. They are the ones that cause me the problems. The other dozen I deal with are all excellent individuals who are always ready to help.

It’s just human nature that I have become hung up on the others.

Even after a break of just a few days I’m already starting to plan a return to haibun. However, with well over 100 published Japanese style poems published, I don’t have to worry about publication. I can worry about writing well. (Note that I will still be worrying whatever happens). The problem came when I was worrying about quality and about being published. It would be nice to do both, but more relaxing just to write for enjoyment.

It’s a bit like my WP experience. It would be nice to write a popular blog which led on to fame and fortune, but it’s quite nice just to be able to write one and exchange comments with a loyal band of readers who don’t mind multiple blog posts about soup and my dislike of modern life. Success is not about fame and fortune, it’s about learning that Maine is the best State (or so Laurie tells me) and that a flying bird of the day is an essential part of the day.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Carrot & Ginger Soup


Philosophy or Just a Dull Post?

Back to normal stuff for now.

The poetry results for January are in. I submitted four selections to magazines and three to competitions. The competition entries will take ages yet and will probably disappear without trace. However, I just had my fourth acceptance out of the four sent to magazines  for January. That hides a number of things, including that today’s acceptance is one haiku selected from ten, and I seriously believe that even then  the editor just takes one to encourage me rather than because they are any good.

The unvarnished figures are 25 submitted – four accepted. It’s not quite the same as four out of four when you look at it like that.

Looking on the bright side, I have 21 poems which are now available to go out again.  It seems a shame to waste the effort, particularly as experience shows that a number of the rejects aren’t that far off being acceptable. You sometimes have to accept that there is only so much space in a magazine and you can’t have more than your fair share. Sometimes I’ve had two or three accepted by an editor, which is good. But when it happens I always feel that I have taken a slot someone else might have been happy to have.

Canal Wall – Stoke on Trent

When I see magazines that have published four or five pieces from one writer, as sometimes happens, I actually feel resentful at times. Even if they are five good pieces I often wonder if the space could have been used better. If a poet is good, they don’t need the validation of multiple acceptances, but there might be someone who is struggling and would love to get just one piece published. That one piece might make the difference between continuing or giving up.

This is similar to the two different approaches to junior sports. Are you there to spread healthy exercise, teamwork and an appreciation of effort? Or are you there to pick out the naturally talented kids and push them on to greater things (including greater reflected glory for the coaches?). I’ve seen both. I’ve seen coaches who have managed to combine both approaches. I’ve also seen rabid parents and over-ambitious coaches who have spoiled sport for both their kids and the children of others.

Stack of books burning

I’ve just been reading some words from an editor, who says that they feel they are there to reflect the breadth of writing from their readership, rather than to select writing that conforms to the narrow vision of the editor. Not every editor takes that view, and I feel that can be a problem at times. I’m not telling editors what to do, as they all give a lot of time up to do the job, but I do wonder which approach serves the writing community better.