Category Archives: haiku

A Few Words For Our Leader

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.

Julia says it won’t catch on.

a few letters
to sum up his Covid work
RIP

Thoughts on Rejection

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.

Be Careful What You Wish For

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

 

 

Talent, Resilence & Patience

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.

Monday – Bloody but Unbroken

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.

That calls for another quote.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

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.

Wednesday Night

This morning I wrote several pages of notes, two haibun and five haiku as I sat and waited in the car. That is two haibun and five haiku more than I have managed in the last two days. I’ve been trying to compose on the computer and it just doesn’t work. I can write articles and I can write blog posts, but I just can’t do poetry on the screen.

Give me a sheet of paper and a loaded fountain pen and sometimes, like today, it’s hard to stop me writing. Whether it’s any good or not is a different matter. A quick survey of recent correspondence with editors seems to indicate that opinion is divided.

Ten submissions in the last two months.

One lost in cyberspace.

Three accepted.

Two rejected (one with amazing alacrity).

Four pending.

At that point I decided I should write a poetry post every day, as well as my normal rambling diatribe against modern life. I’m writing enough, so the words wouldn’t be a problem, and may be it’s my chance to grasp a little of the elusive fame that sometimes gathers round a poet.

Tonight, as I sat down to write, i realised that I can’t bring myself to do it.  It’s alright for people who have won prizes or written books, but for someone like me with a patchy publication history it still seems self-indulgent. I don’t want to seem critical of other bloggers, but there’s quite a lot of poetry out there that could do with tightening up. Mine certainly does, so until I reach a higher level I’m going to refrain from self-publishing.

Tonight I finalised a couple of haibun. They have been hanging round for several months and I decided it was time to finish them or put them in the file of fragments. With that in mind, I found things falling into place.

Sometimes it does that, though a poem is never really finished. I can always look back at one and think of a change to make (change, after all is easy, as I often say, it’s improvement that is difficult).

For the moment then, I will confine myself to writing the odd post about poetry, but won’t put any actual poetry in them.

I need to get on now, as I have to write a few more haiku. I’m embarking on the Buson One Hundred again – ten haiku a day for 100 days. Last time I concentrated on fluency and deactivating my internal editor. This time I’m going to try to write something useful.

A hundred days from now is, I think 17th December. It’s not the most inspiring time of year, but I may as well do it while the enthusiasm takes me or I may end up putting it off for another year.

My Orange Parker Pen

As a warning, and to see if you really read to the end, if you see the picture of stones as the featured image it means it’s a poetry post. This gives you a sporting chance to avoid it.

The stones were in the car park at Aldeburgh last time we visited. Despite being just yards from the beach I suspect that the pink granite chippings indicate it has been shipped in from miles away (probably Aberdeen or thereabouts) to surface a car park that is just a yard away from, a massive shingle beach. The round stone, though, probably is from the beach.

 

 

Sunday Once More

We’ve been out today for lunch in Derbyshire – meeting Number One son for lunch in Castleton, which is roughly half way between us. It was a very pleasant drive and an excellent lunch. Though we were spaced out in the dining room Derbyshire was a bit crowded at times and it’s easy to see how the virus spreads even when we are supposed to be being careful.

Everyone seems more chatty these days, as if the lockdown has made us more open to talking to strangers. It’s probably the only good thing to come from it. Well, maybe not quite – I have also broken my habit of ordering takeaway meals and buying supermarket sandwiches.

I could tell you more but I’m always quite reticent about discussing, or photographing other people for the blog. Part of me doesn’t want to take responsibility for talking about other people, and another part of me thinks that their stories are for them to tell. I would make a very poor autobiographer because of this. However, as I have had a dull, boring and even dreary life, I would make a poor autobiographer for many other reasons too.

View of Castleton, Derbyshire

Tonight I had another rejection. It was for haiku, and I tend to expect this as they are not my strongest suit. I fact, I have only ever had one accepted and this was probably out of charity.

It was a very nice rejection and the editor thanked me for submitting them, told me they had enjoyed all my haiku but had not, in this case selected any for the magazine. There was a suspicion of a double-edged compliment when they told me that they hoped to read some of them in other publications soon. That could be genuine good wishes for success, or just a coded way of telling me to go away and bother someone else.

Being cynical, I checked back a couple of years (I have, as you know, a large store of old emails) and found that this was exactly the same rejection message I had received in 2018.

My suspicion about a coded message is taking a more solid form.

Looking on the bright side, I have had three sets of haiku returned, which allows me to mix and match and send them out to a couple of other editors. As with the previous recipients I am sure they will all be very grateful.

View from Castleton, Derbyshire

Happiness and Haibun

 

I’ve just had a rejection letter from an editor.

My current levels of happiness are such that I have offered him my sincere thanks for his feedback and have already rewritten one of the pieces to send elsewhere later this week.

I am seriously worried about my levels of positivity.

It’s not natural, it’s not me and I know it will all end in tears. I’m wondering if I’m associating with too many Americans. What with Pollyanna and a can-do attitude you lot ought to be quarantined.

I am, of course, a little bit annoyed at the rejection because I’ve clearly sent out sub-standard work and I need to tighten up on it. Fortunately the feedback I was given made the rewrite on one of them quite easy. That will be going to an editor who has never accepted anything from me before. It is very likely to be rejected again, because I don’t think the two of us are on the same wavelength, but you never know…

I’ve actually looked back on one or two posts that mention rejection and seem to have taken it in my stride. However, there was one double rejection that I had, which did stop me in my tracks for a few weeks. I can’t find any mention of it in the blog and may have kept it to myself. That’s how you look successful – talk about the acceptances and gloss over the rejections.

 

I have had, if I remember rightly, I’ve had nine acceptances and six rejections in the 12 months since I started sending things out. It’s all written down but it’s in another room and I’m lazy. As I started off with three rejections the average isn’t looking too bad.

In some ways, acceptance is worse than rejection. Every time I’m accepted I worry about if I’ll ever manage it again, or if editors will ever realise I actually don’t have a clue about what I’m doing.

The key to a good haibun is, it seems, a good haiku, which should be the first thing you write. Well, that’s what a number of well-respected people have said on more than one occasion. It makes sense. You should not, they add, start writing haibun until you are having haiku accepted regularly by reputable journals.

If I’d known that in the beginning I’d never have written haibun. In truth, I started writing them because my haiku are rubbish and I was hoping to conceal this by hiding them in a chunk of prose.

My writing method is to write the prose and then wait, sometimes for weeks, until a thought for the haibun presents itself. If I make a half-decent attempt the editor often suggests improvements, which I immediately agree to.

It may not be the classic method but it seems to work.

 

 

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

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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