Category Archives: haiku

The Results Are In

This is not really a post, just an exercise in procrastination. I started writing it last night and left it for completion but had an idea for another post before returning to it.  I should be writing some haibun at the moment, but that isn’t going well. I started writing but wandered off to search Gray’s Elegy for a title, and ended up reading Lowell’s For the Union Dead, which is a fine poem but isn’t going to move my haibun forward. On the other hand, twenty minutes of staring into space and chewing a pen didn’t move it forward either.

I am now going to complete the post so that I don’t need to think about actually writing poetry.

It is now twelve months since I decided to take poetry seriously and I am in a position to discuss my 12 month rolling average.

Fifty six submissions made. Twenty eight have been successful, twenty one have been rejected and seven are awaiting a decision. Three of those have very little chance but I have a reasonable chance with the others. Even if none of them are accepted I am still on 50%, which everyone tells me is a good proportion.

This year it’s safe to say that I have written more, managed a publishable standard and have moved slightly out of my comfort zone by venturing into ordinary poetry and tanka, whilst trying a few new magazines.

In truth, I’ve done a little ordinary poetry before, though I did aim reasonably high with my choice of magazine, so I’m happy there. The tanka seem quite successful too, so I need  anew challenge. This year I will consolidate what I am doing (no need to get over-confident) then look for new challenges.

I also have to work on becoming more productive, but for the moment I am off to read about writing better tanka. It beats bashing away at haibun that won’t come, but is all about self-improvement so doesn’t count at procrastination.

 

 

 

No justice, no answers, just a Haibun

I just had a really good rant. I won’t be publishing it, but it has cleared my head. It was all about people whining that they want “justice” and “answers” about the death of their loved ones in Care Homes.  I have news for them – there is no justice, there is just stuff that happens. There are no answers, just opinions. And most of all, there is no point dwelling in the past. Yes, you can learn from past mistakes, but once it gets past a certain point the 80:20 rule cuts in, and you spend a lot pf time going nowhere.

Instead of appearing on TV demanding “justice” or “answers” in relation to the death of my father I will post a haibun today. It was first published in the April 2021 issue of The Haibun Journal.

 

In John Clare’s Footsteps

a grass cup
five speckled eggs
— my fathers’ hands

Despite social distancing rules, one of my cousins helps me adjust my tie in the crematorium car park. He says that he only wears ties at funerals. It’s the same for me. Dad’s generation, on the other hand, didn’t think they were properly dressed without a tie. We weren’t allowed to see him at the funeral home because of the covid restrictions, but I think of him wearing the grey silk tie my sister provided.

As we wait, I look over the ranks of rose bushes to the fields beyond. The scent drifts on the breeze. John Clare, the Peasant Poet, was born and lived a few miles from here before his descent to the asylum. Our family walks used to take us through these fields, where skylarks scattered us with song. I can only see one today as it rises to the clouds, but, in the manner of the modern larks, it does not seem to sing.

silent in the clouds
— a dark spot
ascending

 

 

 

A Worse Thing than Being Accepted

I didn’t realise there was anything worse than being accepted, until yesterday.

I’ve just had an acceptance and I am very annoyed. In fact at one point I was filled with rage. I sent in three haibun, each one elegantly and interestingly crafted and probably some of the best work I have ever done. I also sent in seven tanka to make the numbers up and see how the tanka are going. I’ve only just started writing them and have had one accepted, so they seem to be hitting the mark. However, they are just lightweight 5 line poems compared to the more serious business of writing haibun. They are also, let’s face it, a lot easier than haiku – two extra lines and fewer rules make for a more relaxed writing experience.

You can see where this is heading already, can’t you?

None of the haibun were required and one of the tanka was accepted. My first reaction was disbelief, then, as read the email again (because I’d clearly missed something first time) extreme annoyance.  I’d just spent the best part of a year on the haibun, editing, cutting, polishing and letting them mature (all the stuff you are supposed to do), and they were tossed to one side in favour of something that took me five minutes.

However, after sleep and breakfast I’m looking on it as just one more manifestation of the mystery of interaction with editors. I will put it down to experience, use it for the basis of a blog post and, eventually use it in  a magazine article about rejection. But most of all I will look at my work critically and try to work out why it took a year to produce a bad haibun. I used to be able to that in twenty minutes. I’m getting slower  . . .

 

Poppies and Poems

We had eighteen poppies this morning. Not as good as some recent days when we had over 20, but still quite good. If you say we average 15 a day (we have  second, small, patch too) in Junes, July, August and September, that’s about 1,700 blooms. That’s a lot of effort in flowering and, to be honest, a lot of deadheading too. And all from two patches of poppies which grow from cracks in the concrete. When we move I must try to save seed.

I am using a more structured approach to the day. I did 10 haiku this morning after arriving at work and emailed them to myself. I made a few notes on a submission I am making this evening and then started work. I wrote and the shop benefited from me starting early so I like to think it is good for both of us.

Did I say I was doing a Buson 100 (100 days writing 10 haiku each day.)? I honestly forget what I write in my notes, what I write in the blog and what I mean to write in the blog. Yes, I see I have mentioned it. I’m just over half way in days, and have a few poems in hand, so things aren’t looking too bad, though it’s till touch and go, as I can easily get two or three days behind, and it takes a bit of catching up.  This isn’t helped by losing a notebook with ten poems in it. However, as copy typing is very dull, half of me is happy to lose them and just write directly onto the screen. I’m finding it a lot easier to type haiku these days, instead of having to write them first. Typing is less stress on my hands too, so it’s all good.

Structure, planning, discipline. Bit by bit it seems to be working, though it’s mainly structure helping to develop good habits. Planning is OK, but could be better. Discipline seems to dissolve when I see an interesting link to follow and lose myself for an hour . . .

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Comments on Rejection

I had a rejection email a couple of days ago, which was quite good as it had several notes with it. In general it gives me plenty of information about what the editor is thinking, though actual “improvements” are not quite so plentiful. I will act on the suggestions, as they took time and effort to produce, but like several other of my published pieces, I will also write the one i want to write and try again. Poems are, after all, only words and, as I have said before, I have plenty of words to write another one. It’s not like every poem published depletes the stock of words for the rest of us.

The three main points are that I should show, not tell. Last time I sent something to that magazine the comment was that I should have shown the house being built. There was, in the entire poem, no mention of a house being built, and in real life no house was built. The editor imagined it as a result of the poem. This is both good and bad, and after reading up I found that telling is sometimes necessary. It’s one of those things you find when you have contact with editors – inconsistency, grey areas and matters of opinion. Usually, I tell too much and gradually edit it out as I condense the poem. However, this can take months and I wrote the poem in question in three days. The problem wasn’t so much telling not showing – it was rushing things and  not editing properly. I’ll hold my hand up to that one.

Then there was the question of certain phrases and whether they were “poetic” or necessary. One of them was a metaphor that linked with other things in the poem, but that wasn’t noted. I’m obviously too subtle. Another was a phrase that most of you would have recognise a my speaking voice. I tend to write as I speak and I don’t always sound like Shelly or Frost. This irks me slightly a it’s like I’m being edited out of my own poems. It’s happened with others too, so this isn’t unusual.

Finally, the suggestions seem to have reduced the poem to a short paragraph with a tanka at each side. Whether this is by accident or not, I’m not clear. Over the years haibun have become shorter. I presume the same is true for tanka prose, though I admit I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to write them. It seems to be a particularly American thing – a few lines of prose and a quick poem, usually with a tangential connection to the prose, referred to as “link and shift“. What they don’t tell you is that there are other ways of connecting the two elements.

I will stop there, lest I go on to explore other areas where editors may have blind spots dictated by fashion. I’m very close to 500 words now, which is a long post on a subject that is mainly of interest only to me.

My Orange Parker Pen

A Haibun about Jigsaws and Dementia.

This is my entry for the British Haiku Society Haibun Competition. It was either successful (because it was  honourably mentioned), or unsuccessful because it didn’t win. It has been mentioned on the website and is in the latest edition of Blithe Spirit, and the final haibun is quoted, so I presume it is now OK for me to reprint it. It is the second haibun I have written, featuring Dad and jigsaws. As some people have written books and plays about such things I suppose two haibun is not excessive, but it does worry me that I go back to old subjects – at what point does it become boring. That’s the reason I’ve generally (but not entirely) avoided COVID – we are all living through it, how many poems do we need?

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
released


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 say.

Haiku and Haibun

I have had a couple of pieces published online recently.

One was a haiku in Wales Haiku Journal Spring 2021. You can either go down from the top – I’m about 154 down, or work up from the end – I’m about 35th if you start at the bottom. Ther are so many

The other is in Drifting Sands, and is available here.

I like being in online journals because I can share the links and show off.  I also like being in printed journals, because I like seeing myself on a page, and admire the editors who keep the tradition of print journals going. In the next month or two I’m going to sort out my subscriptions. I think the least I can do is subscribe to 12 different journals. It’s not as if I smoke or drink anymore. All I need to do is spread them out a bit so that I don’t land myself with a big bill one month. Christmas is always a bad time because so many subscriptions to different things fall due at the end of the year. Don’t they ever stop and think about this? Why put all the subscriptions at the most expensive time of the year?

Of course, there’s a certain amount of self-interest at work here, and I will be supporting journals that I’m in, or want to be in. I’m a realist, not a saint…

Meanwhile, I have a few pieces from print journals that are probably old enough to be reprinted on the blog. I’ll sort them out in the next week or so.

 

Me and Roger McGough

I’ll go back a couple of days for this one.  I had an email yesterday. As is customary I have had three haibun rejected by the editor who always rejects me.  He thinks there were some interesting points but they aren’t quite there yet. He has been thinking that for around two years. I have submitted to him half a dozen times and have failed to find favour every time.  Two years of being “not quite there yet” seems like a long time – in that time I have had haibun published in six other journals.

I don’t mean I should be accepted very time I submit, or that the rejecting editor is wrong. Even the magazines that generally accept me don’t do so without the odd rejection, and once in a while I get a hard time from one of the editors demanding changes I don’t always want to make. When that happens, I get annoyed with myself for not writing to a high enough standard. That’s not difficult to cope with.

However, when you are consistently turned down by one editor you reach a point when you have to wonder if it’s worth the effort, and whether he is looking for something I can’t produce.  I’ll probably try a few more times, because each rejection is one more for the year’s list. I’m supposed to be aiming for 100 rejections and have only made 22 submissions so far this year. I’ve been a bit lazy recently, so need to up my game. It doesn’t do me any harm to get a few rejections because it does make me sharpen up, the only proviso is that I want to send stuff out that has a chance of success, and that takes time. Recently it has been taking longer than usual.

Anyway, that’s a rejection, and the lessons to be learned from it. I will now go back by another day.

My copy of Acumen arrived. I has two of my poems in it. They were shortlisted in February and accepted in March, so it’s been a while. I have become so used to the rapid internet world of most haibun magazines that this seems a long time. It’s the 100th edition and is bigger than usual, and is very glossy. To say I was pleased with myself would be an understatement.

When I opened it I found there were quite a few famous poets in there, Mimi Khalvati was on the opening page and Roger McGough was about half-way through. I’m right at the back, but it doesn’t matter, I’m still in a magazine with some famous poets. I’ve been in magazines with some notable haibun writers too, but none of them as famous as Roger McGough.

It took a while for me to calm down after that, which is why the Saturday rejection bounced off me, and why I’ve had to wait until now to write about it. It’s probably very un-Zen to be too excited about this sort of thing, so I also had to watch out I didn’t upset any passing haiku practitioners with my unseemly showing off.

Reading, writing, wittering on…

This is a post I wrote this morning. I arrived at work slightly earlier than usual and found there were only two parcels to pack, so that was soon done. I don’t access WP from the work computer, as I don’t want to blur too many lines, but I do sometimes check my emails, so I emailed this to myself.

After posting last night, I spent some time looking at poetry to see what I could do to improve. First stop was  a magazine that usually rejects my work. The editor does give me advice from time to time, which only increases my confusion. I don’t always understand what they say to me, and I definitely don’t understand why things identified as faults in my work are acceptable in the work of others. I found several examples and spent half an hour studying them for clues as to what makes them publishable when I am not. I looked at all sorts of things apart from the writing and the content, including subject, voice and style, and I couldn’t se what the successful pieces had that I didn’t. I’ll have a go in a few months and see what I can see.

Better informed, but mystified, I moved on. If I keep seeking, I am sure I will find something to explain it, and even if I don’t , I am bound to learn something and improve, simply by looking at things in greater detail.

It’s that pond again. The haibun that it inspired was eventually split in two. One half was published. The second half formed the basis of another haibun I am still working on.

I found two by someone from the UK and decided to look him up. I do that sometimes. He writes in several forms and has published nearly a thousand pieces in 20 years. He belongs to two writers’ groups, reads in public and plans all his poems out. I’m already sensing several differences in our approach. I don’t like the idea of writers’ groups, don’t like speaking in public, and although I do think of planning I rarely do any. I say “rarely” but if you were to pin me down on detail, I may alter that to never. But I do sometimes thing of planning, which is nearly the same. However, despite the differences there is one similarity – we keep writing, learning and submitting.

My normal planning process is to think “I’m going to write something.” I may have to look at that again.

At that point, or some defined point in the future (generally after eating or watching TV) I write. Then I write some more and try to add something at the beginning that is also mentioned at the end. If you do that it looks like you had a plan. Then I take all the bad words out – long words because they are just showing off, adjectives because they are frowned on in poetry, and clichés – shards is one of the main ones that people go on about but myriads, hosts and cerulean are also unwelcome.

Then I leave it to rest. Some of my published work has been resting for a couple of years, with a gentle nudge and a prune now and again. Sometimes I add a bit, but mostly it’s a process of reduction. Then one day I send it out into the world. It often returns. So I cut, shape and send it out again. If it comes back too many times, I think about reusing bits of it.

It’s sometimes difficult to judge. Some poems go out four or five times and are eventually accepted. Others go once or twice and get parked. It all depends on how much confidence I have in them. One went out five times before being accepted, another was accepted on its fourth attempt (four days after being rejected by another magazine).  As Chuck Berry said ” It goes to show you can never can tell.”

An attempt at artistry

 

Running Like a Hamster

It seems like I’ve been writing all day, and all I’ve done so far is catch up on work that I’d allowed to get behind last week. This morning’s post doesn’t really count because it had mostly been written and was just lying in drafts waiting for me to press the button. I did have a  short break for lunch, but having learnt from past experience, I got back to work before a nap attack had time to occur.

I’ve not done a lot of reading recently, so I apologise for neglecting you all but things have been quite hectic. I’ve slept a little too much time away in front of the TV and I’ve put in four submissions in the last four days and I’m trying to do a fifth, though I’m not doing well on that one as I still haven’t touched it today. This is all made more time-consuming by my poor time management abilities.

I’ve also being doing another Buson 100. I did one before, and tried another which I didn’t complete. I’m now four weeks into the new one. I looked at links for the Buson 100, and you’ll never guess what – one of my posts was the fifth. Embarrassingly, it’s from my second attempt, which petered out. I know other people have done it, because I’ve seen it mentioned on several occasions, but very few people seem to want to admit it.

That is, of course, another reason why I’ve been short of time. I’m writing 70 haiku a week and trying to do a few diary notes each day to put them in context. Some days it takes twenty minutes, some days I don’t get them done. What tends to happen is that I write them down, but don’t get round to typing them up, which can be a problem on days like today, when I have fifty or sixty haiku to type plus some back-dated diary notes. Actually, I’m writing over 70 a week because I often do a few extra and when I’m typing them I often have a couple of ideas for new ones. Some of them are OK, so it’s not a waste. I will tell you more about it in another post. Meanwhile, if you don’t see me about as much as usual, it’s all part of the process. I have just about sorted it out now and am hoping to get back into the swing of things by the end of next week.

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park