Does the title give it away? I’ve been having to think about titles recently as part of my general “upping the game” policy for haibun. With WP you can just throw a few words in the title box and you are done. If I can add some alliteration I consider it a good day and if I can work a pun into it I turn mental cartwheels. But with haibun they expect much more.
A haibun title should draw the reader in and enthuse them to read on, It should link to the prose and haiku, without giving it away, and it should, after the reader has finished, add a further dimension or other meaning.
That’s slightly different to the way I generally view a title, which is a way to identify the work when I want to find it again. I can see a major reassessment is needed.
I’ve actually looked at the titles of a few haibun by people who have criticised my titles. Guess what? I just read half a dozen haibun. One title drew me in. Several were dull. One linked to the haiku but neither the title nor the haiku linked to the prose. A couple seemed to have nothing to do with anything that followed. None of them changed meaning after I finished reading the haibun, though several puzzled me by, as mentioned above, seeming to have nothing to do with the haibun. I could go on.
My point? Some of these simple things are harder than they look and even the great and the good struggle to get it right.
It might be that they are getting it right and I am just too plodding to recognise the fact.
So – three things to learn from today.
One – work harder on titles, using these guidelines.
Two – develop critical reading skills.
Three – editors don’t always follow their own advice.
That, I think, is enough for now. I’m now going to apply these lessons to my latest haibuns “Crap haibun I threw together between games of Freecell” and “Number 82”. It’s likely that they can both be improved.
Whilst chatting to Tootlepedal last night in the comments section, I was able to formulate an acronym for Boris. He asked me if I could make it into a haiku, but I admit I am unequal to the challenge. It runs to twenty syllables and even the old-fashioned 5-7-5 Haiku only run to seventeen. I have managed to work it into a haibun.
Warning – contains an acronym of dubious taste.
After admiring the acronym POTUS for some time, I have decided that our Prime Minister needs an acronym. I’m still working on one as a general acronym for our leader, but have managed to develop one specific to Boris. Few, I imagine, would dispute that he is a Famously Unprincipled Conservative Kingpin Without Intelligent Thought.
I’ve had five rejections in the last month and have had several different reactions.
A feeling of being rejected was, strangely, not one of the reactions. A rejection, in this sense, is only the expression of one editor’s view on that particular day.
One of them was quite interesting, as it involved haiku. I don’t usually write them, despite them being an essential part of a haibun, and it’s something I should do more often. I’m resigned to them being rejected but every so often I submit some anyway to see what people think.
My most recent attempts bounced back with the news that only a third of submissions had any success, and telling me which two had been considered the strongest candidates. I don’t feel too bad about rejection when I know two out of three are rejected.
Two submissions bounced back within days, which I always take as a sign they weren’t even close. There’s not much you can say about that. I probably should learn to be more analytical and to send things that match the content of the magazine. I can do that in one case.
The other case was a guest editor, and it’s slightly more difficult to guess what they want, particularly when they don’t give you a clue. It can, of course, be tricky working out what they want when they do give you a clue. They told me they weren’t a good fit for that issue. I am as wise after reading that comment a dozen times as I was before I read it the first time.
I suppose it’s difficult finding ways to reject people without insulting them or giving them something to argue about.
One of the other submissions was returned with no further information. That was fair, as the submissions weren’t particularly good. It was another guest editor job and I’d sent two pieces which weren’t really finished because I thought they matched the style of the guest editor, an error I won’t make again. I hate being made to look unprofessional, even if I do it to myself.
The final one was returned with the observation that the haiku didn’t add depth to the prose as they were too similar. That’s a comment I’ve had before.
The other comment I have had before is that the haiku don’t harmonise with the prose and therefore fail to add depth.
It’s very difficult knowing what to do. Are your haiku too similar or too dissimilar? And will they be the same tomorrow? Maybe I just suffer from shallow haiku. It just occurred to me that my fascination for improper acronyms could have a field day with Shallow Haiku. As they generally come at the end, I could say that the trouble with my haibun is that they are Shallow Haiku in Termination.
I write because I’m addicted. Deep down, I just can’t stop. In my teens I wanted to write as a career, to earn money and to attend literary lunches. I’m still not clear what a literary lunch is, but I knew that writers went to them.
That was as far as I got this morning, before being diverted from my course with some thoughts on junior match reports.
After trying novels I moved on to poetry, then back to novels. I did think about an autobiography but I didn’t really have enough material at the age of seventeen. After that I carried on writing endless first pages and throwing them away whilst reading books on how to write best sellers. Occasionally I had a go at magazine articles, and had a few accepted. I did wonder if I could become a freelance writer, but lack of a decent work ethic suggested it would be a disaster.
Eventually I had a proper go and tried for more fame and fortune with a detective novel. I say novel, what I really mean is “load of words”. It went to about 120,000 words but lacked a couple of things, including a decent plot, an ending and a lot of editing. So I tried again. Another 80,000 words, but still a lack of plot, ending and editing. At least I’d learned to keep the word count down.
After that I moved on to poetry for light relief. My father-in-law had started writing poetry in retirement and had several pieces published. He also performed some of his poems on stage, which is something I will never be brave enough to do. I decided to follow his example and had about fifteen published, was Highly Commended in a national competition, and even managed to get one poem in a decent quality magazine.
At that point I ended up in hospital a couple of times and, when I emerged, started writing match reports (as previously mentioned) and programme notes. This was not the time in hospital I blogged about a few years ago, but the forerunner. It did, however, involve much the same procedure – spinal anaesthetic, small orifice, large camera and much whining. It also included two biopsies. The dissolving stitches on one of them dissolved far too soon and it took two hours to stop the bleeding. Ah, good times…
There were a couple of years where I did nothing, then I started the blog, went into hospital again and decided to have a crack at haibun. So far it seems to have worked out.
It’s not much for fifty years in writing. A handful of poems of various types published, a dozen magazine articles and a blog. I’m clearly not in it for the money, or even for the fame. To be honest, when the rejections start piling up I don’t even do it because I enjoy it.
One day I may write enough to think about a slim volume of poetry but I’m not, when I think about it, too worried. Once they are published I’m not too concerned. I like the idea of testing myself against the standards of editors, and showing off by blogging about it, but I’m not sure if a few poems justify cutting down acres of trees.
No, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do it because I’m addicted. Or, if that isn’t possible, I am at least in the grip of a very strong habit.
I’m using the header picture of the stones to warn you I’m going to be talking poetry, so continue with care if you are not the poetic type.
I submitted a couple of haibun to a magazine in the early hours of this morning, and just nine hours later I had the rejection. It was hardly a surprise. When I saw the answer was back so soon I realised it wasn’t going to be good news. Editors don’t generally rush to acceptance, they like to take their time. A case in point is a piece I currently have out – it took eight weeks to get a reply, which asked me to make alterations. I made the alterations and I’ve now been waiting nearly a month for a decision. Sometimes it’s hard not to be cynical.
Would I rather have an acceptance taking 12 weeks or a rejection taking just nine hours? It’s a tricky question. I don’t really like waiting 12 weeks, but I’m not keen on being rejected either. (I have to add that I’ve waited a lot longer than 12 weeks in the past, so it’s not a terrible length of time. However, haibun magazines in the 21st century seem to be able to get answers out a lot quicker these days).
I’m working on the netbook at the moment whilst watching Judge Dredd (the Stallone version, which I always enjoy) so I can’t access my list of submissions – I’ll report on the numbers later, but I’m in a bit of a slump at the moment.
It is therefore pleasant to tell you that The Haibun Journal is out. It’s a print publication from Ireland and much more relaxing to read than a web page. Of course, with postage costing a small fortune from the Republic of Ireland, it’s a lot more expensive than a web page, but you can’t have everything. I’m on page 59. Unfortunately I can’t provide a link, and it’s not really etiquette to reproduce haibun so soon after publication, so you’ll have to wait a bit.
I am in the magazine with three people who, in their editorial capacities, have recently rejected work from me. I can’t help feeling that there’s an element of irony in this.
And with that thought, I’m off. I clearly have to do more reading in my quest for the perfect haibun.
Update: This currently leaves me with 4 acceptances, six rejections and two still waiting – not as good as it was, but it could be a lot worse. Last year was five from eight and the year before that was about four from eight, but I didn’t keep a proper record.
In literary convention, Sunday morning is a lazy day involving late breakfasts and a leisurely reading of a weighty Sunday paper. I can remember Sundays like that, walking to the paper shop with my father to collect papers because there was no newspaper delivery on Sunday.
As I became a father myself, and the kids started playing rugby, Sunday mornings became more hectic times, featuring lost boots and arguments. I remember one morning in a car park 30 miles from home when a familiar face pulled up with his son.
I said: “You’re in the wrong place Dave, the Under 12s are playing at home.”
“What are you doing here then?” he asked, with the triumphal air of of a man proving an important philosophical point in an argument.
“I’m with the Under 15s today. Julia’s with the Under 12s.”
Modern Sundays seem so hectic.
Ten years after our walks to buy papers my father and I had developed a prickly relationship. Adolescents, as I would find in my turn, are awful examples of humanity and are barely human. Ten years after that, we still weren’t much friendlier. Ten years after that we had developed a better understanding, as I now had kids of my own. Ten years after that I no longer read newspapers. And ten years after that, having lost many games of dominoes and done a lot of jigsaws, I am left to regret the wasted time spent arguing, and the lessons I could have learned from my father. He may have lost a lot of things through Alzheimer’s, but he retained his competitive edge and his facility with numbers until the end.
To be fair, I wasn’t the only argumentative one (the apple not falling far from the tree) and some of his advice, whilst brilliant for the 1950s, was not so good when applied to the 1990s.
Here’s a haibun I wrote on the subject some time ago – first published in Haibun Today Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019.
My father remembers who I am (though he can’t quite remember my name) and he’s keen to show me his jigsaw.
It’s one of the puzzles my sister ordered from a specialist supplier. They have larger pieces than normal and depict idealised, almost timeless, scenes from the 1950’s. Before she found these, he used to have jigsaws for children, bought from the Early Learning Centre.
When he clears it away, he puts the edges in a separate bag, so they will be easier to find next time. That could be as early as tomorrow, when it will be brand new as it comes out of the box.
playing a child’s game
in the fading light
One of my accepted haibun has just been published. You can find it here – as usual you need to scroll down to the name Simon Wilson. If the author’s bio is still there, don’t believe a word of it as it refers to Simon Hanson – he is more erudite, more interesting and, I have to confess, better looking. I’m quite happy with the substitution but if he ever visits this blog, sees that I write limericks, live a dull suburban life and look like I sleep in the woods, he may not be impressed.
The other haibun are all worth reading, though I must admit to being mystified by some of them. That’s why the writing of haibun is such an interesting area. There are several that I read and think “I could have written that!” but I didn’t. Sometimes that’s because I just didn’t connect something I’d seen to the possibility of a haibun, and other times it’s because I couldn’t make the subject work. I still have a lot to learn.
Some of them, as I say mystify me. I have a few things to do this afternoon, but this evening I will re-read the magazine several times and let things sink in. Enlightenment may come. Or, if there is anything good on TV, I may abandon the deep reading and just accept that I’m a Philistine.
Just in case you didn’t click on the last link, here it is again.
In other poetic news I was turned down by another editor, but as they are young, dynamic and cutting edge it is hardly a surprise that I can’t produce what they want. I did have a note from another editor, suggesting changes, which I made. I haven’t heard back yet, which is a worry, last time this happened the rewrite was turned down, leaving me with both a feeling of rejection and a loss of integrity. I’ll pretty much alter anything to get published (I am such a needy egotist) but when you alter it and still get turned down it’s a double blow.
Only one day after saying I was waiting impatiently for news from two editors, one got back to me.
Not only did they get back to me, but they told me they were going to pass on the haibun which, it seems, lack depth, as the haiku fail to take the reader on a step beyond the prose.
This is slightly depressing as I was just beginning to think I was getting the hang of things. About a year ago I had several haibun returned as the haiku were felt to be a step to far away from the prose and were not related enough.
Rejection I can cope with. It is, as I recently said, simply an indication that one particular editor, at this time, doesn’t think that the work is right for publication. It isn’t personal and it isn’t necessarily an opinion shared by other editors.
What does concern me a little with this rejection is that the specific objection is one that I thought I’d addressed. It’s not about my ability to write, it’s about my judgement of what is good and what is bad. I actually thought I was getting better and was moderately happy with them. (I am never fully happy with any submissions, even when they are published, I even went over yesterdays Limmerbun to alter a line this afternoon).
I have just been and looked at about twenty haibun in a couple of magazines. About a third of them had haiku attached which were stronger than mine. Another third featured haiku much the same as mine. The final third featured haiku which bore little relationship to anything that had gone on in the prose – my previous problem. This, of course, is just my opinion, and as we have just seen, my opinion may not be correct. I would however suggest that on another day, with another editor and a different magazine, these haibun could have been accepted,
This all goes to show that there is no good and bad in haibun, just things that gain approval and things that don’t. Today, I didn’t. Watch, learn, move on. I will tweak them over the next few days. It’s not so much improving them as moving them more into the area where they are likely to be accepted for publication. Or does that sound too cynical?
I will leave you with these wise words from one of our great, but unappreciated, philosophers.
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
There are three things you need for success in life, whether you are talking about writing (as I do) or anything else.
(By the way, I’m about to invent a new form of poem, so stay alert till the end.)
Despite the title, talent isn’t one of them. Research has shown that if you divide a group of children into two lots and praise one for their talent and the other for their hard work the results of one group will gradually decline and the other will increase.
The problem with praising someone for their talent is that they begin to believe that their talent will run out, where the other group starts to believe that the harder they work, the better they will become. This seems to be borne out by the actual results.
It is all laid out in a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed. Reading the review, as I did whilst looking for a link, it looks like there’s a lot more in there too – I really should read it again.
Talent can, to be honest, be replaced by practice and work rate. As long as you have a basic grasp of what makes a good bit of work in your field, you can work on improving the quality of your work. If you write a lot and submit enough pieces of work, success will follow. Once you have some success, more will follow. It’s like Roger Bannister and the four minute mile – once he broke the four minute barrier others followed. Barriers are mainly psychological, and once broken can be broken again and again.
Resilience, I have covered several times. Rejection is merely the opinion of an editor at a certain point in time, and does not constitute a damning judgement on you or your work. If several editors share the same view it still isn’t that bad, just take it as a hint that you need to alter a few things.
As an aside – write haibun. I have always felt fortunate that a number of editors have taken the time to give me pointers about my haibun, which isn’t something that happens in a lot of fields. It seems to be a field where we are blessed with a group of fine editors. When I was a more traditional poet I rarely met with helpful comments – it was a case of yes or no, mostly no, and no clue as to what needed altering.
Stone on the Floor
I thought I’d put the poetic rocks half way down as it isn’t really a poetry post.
Finally, patience. No editor of a small poetry publication is in it hoping for fame and fortune. They are often overworked, under appreciated and blamed for the varied failings of authors. Some people even write sarcastic haibun about them. These people should be ashamed of themselves.
If you are a guest editor, as many are, the under-appreciation must be even greater.
However, it doesn’t stop me getting twitchy when they take a long time over their answer. I’m waiting for an answer from a magazine that says it may take 6-8 weeks to answer during busy periods. IT’s had the submission for 54 days now, which is just two days short of eight weeks, and I’m becoming twitchy. Another, with a target of two weeks, has had my submission for sixteen days. Two weeks is an excellent response time, so I’m not complaining, but I’d love an answer.
You just have to sit back and wait. It’s difficult not to be impatient, but just think, if it was you, would you appreciate impatience. I think not.I keep telling myself we are lucky to have people to do these jobs for us. If you left me in charge of a magazine it would soon degenerate into confusion and Limericks.
There was an old poet called Quercus,
whose efforts, often, would irk us.
He loved to declaim, and would often exclaim
that he’d much rather work in a circus.
And that is my new form of poetry. You have prose and haiku, which are haibun, and prose and tanka, which are called tanka prose. Well this – prose followed by a Limerick, is a Limmerbun. I add the double m to make sure it is pronounced correctly. Unlike the other two, a Limmerbun can be utter nonsense.
My Orange Parker Pen
I’m still hoping for some freebies from Parker. They are obviously not reading this blog.
Edited next day to tidy up a typo, remove a repetition and tinker with the Limerick.
The Featured Image is also my coded warning that you are about to enter a poetry post. If the word culture affects you like it affected Hermann Goering, you may want to look away now. Apart from the fact Goering never said it, and the original version is, to be honest, a lot less snappy. I often find quotes are like that when you actually check them out.
I think I mentioned last week that I was sending some haiku off to an editor that has already turned me down twice. I may improve, or I may wear him down, but one way or another I’m not going to admit defeat.
Well, today, just a week after sending, the email came back. To be fair, he doesn’t hang about. I’ve been waiting for eight weeks for one editor to get back to me, which isn’t long compared to some, but os long enough when you are waiting for an answer.
To be honest, I almost prefer a quick rejection to a long drawn out acceptance. And I definitely prefer a quick rejection to a slow one. You can send the haiku out again once they come back. In fact that’s how I ended up with the submission in question – eight of them had been sent out before.
The one that was accepted had been turned down once before, which just goes to show…something…
I’m not sure what.
And yes, it is another acceptance. I was so convinced it was going to be a No that I spent ten minutes sitting grinning at the screen. I now stand at submissions 10, acceptances 4, rejections 2.
Again, that noise you hear is the smugness alarm.
The rest of the day was truly awful, but who cares.