Category Archives: poetry

A Pleasant Surprise, a Haibun and another Senior Moment

Today, the 19th of September 2021, I had  pleasant surprise. I opened up Drifting Sands Haibun and found my haibun on the front page. I added the date because it will change over time. We are due for a new issue soon and it will change. But for a short while, I was there. Forgive my unseemly glee, but after being accepted a number of times it is difficult to set a new target, and getting to the front page of Drifting Sands was one that I had set myself.

For those of you reading this too late to see it on the front page, you can try here. Don’t get too excited, I think I posted the link before. It’s just the one about the crow and the ants.

Now, I know you are all wondering what I have done in the matter of Senior Moments. Well, some months ago, I had trouble with my emails, and nearly missed some emails from an editor. We managed to sort that out, but didn’t actually find the cause. Last week I finally started looking at my submission diary (remember I have been ill/lazy for a month) and realised that I should have had some contact from editors. I checked up and found that I had a haiku in a magazine. This was a surprise, but more evidence of the fact that I wasn’t getting emails, or I would have known it was being published.

This set up a panic reaction, because I don’t want to miss the chance of publication, or have editors think that I am rude or inefficient. I am both, but I don’t want people to think it . . .

I have just spent my afternoon writing to the editors who may have emailed me, explaining what happened. It’s a tricky email to write (three times) because there is always the chance that they may not have thought me worth responding to.

Earlier in the week I started to realise what I had done but, prodding around with my email controls in an unstructured and ill-informed way, managed to make it worse. Anyway, I have finally found the answer and corrected it.

I had reset my spam controls a couple of months ago to block a particularly irritating advertiser. In doing so, I had also added gmail to my list of blocked domains. This was clearly a bad move. However, it is unblocked now, explanations have been sent and I am a wiser man.

 

 

£7.99 – an unconsidered trifle

I’ve just been looking at books of haibun. A lot of them are around the £17 mark, which is a lot for a slim volume of poetry, particularly when some are by writers I don’t particularly care for, or have never heard of. I did find one volume that was more modestly priced, and by someone I like as a writer and  a person, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve already ordered one book of poetry this week, another wouldn’t, I decided, do any harm.

Then Amazon stepped in. and tried to force me to take out a subscription to Amazon Prime. At one time you could often get free P&P if you looked round and accepted that delivery would take a few days extra. Now you have to pay £7.99 a month. Or I can pay £3.99 P&P for a 50 page poetry pamphlet. Cost, I believe, around £1.29 plus an envelope and the cost of slipping it in and sealing the flap. It’s not worth £3.99, and it never used to be £3.99. They are just trying to push me into Prime membership, and I don’t want it. Even at £3.99 I would have to order three items a month to get any benefit, and I don’t order three items a month.

If I did, I’d buy from eBay as I may as well support the manipulative tax-evading giant that helps pay my wages, rather than the manipulative tax-evading giant that doesn’t. Yes, there are other benefits attached to Prime, but as I don’t currently use them (or know what they are) I’m sure I can live without them.

There must be something magic about the figure of £7.99  a month. If I ever go back to Microsoft office it will cost me £7.99 a month. So does Readly, the magazine service, but I do get value for money there most months. Other things seem to end up at £7.99 too. It’s the sort of figure that doesn’t seem frightening in the same way that £9.99 or £10.99 does, a sort of 21st Century stealth tax on modern life.

However, for the time being I’m not falling for it, and I’m not going to be forced into it, or into paying £3.99 for P&P.

Amazon hasn’t lost a lot, because my purchase is insignificant, but I have lost out by not having the book and the poet has lost out by not having a sale. Eventually this is how the world will go – everybody either bowing to Amazon or suffering a second class life if they dare to resist.

Etiquette and Editors and Lifestyle Changes

I’m never quite sure about how to treat editors. I treat them politely, but it’s difficult knowing exactly how to do that. I was brought up not to use first names until I knew someone, but the simple use of Mr or Mrs or Miss or any other simple title is now a politically charged minefield with the capacity for causing great offence, so I try to avoid it.

Talking of that, did you know that the Post office had a set of stamps in 2002 that included a rabbit and the words “a new baby”. I have nightmares about using them on a parcel that goes to someone who, for one reason or another, finds it upsetting. It’s a great stamp for someone who just had a healthy baby but there are are a number of circumstances where it could cause offence.

Anyway, back to editors. Apart from the problem of how to address them, there is the problem of how to reply after they have either accepted or rejected something. I’ve seen mixed advice on this, including several opinions that editors have enough to do without extra emails.

I took that advice to start with, as I don’t want to cause extra work, but after a while it began to seem rude.

Several editors, including one who turned me down this week, go out of their way to tell you that they can’t, or won’t, offer help or advice on your work. Others do offer some comment, which is always a happy extra. I’m happy that they don’t comment (as it isn’t their purpose). I’m not so happy with the ones who make a big thing out of not commenting, as it seems slightly aggressive and negative. Which leaves us with the ones that do comment – it seems rude not to thank them. so I now do that. In general, the most helpful comments seem to come from people who are turning my work down.

That just leaves the question of whether writing anything but a submission looks like an attempt to suck up to an editor. I don’t have a clue about that one, and would be interested to hear from any editors or ex-editors out there who have a view.

I’ll stop there as I am planning a drive North and a pub lunch. They were things that I used to do without thinking eighteen months ago. Now, I’ve had to book, which means I need plans and timings, and I have had to read the website. We can now have a party of any size we like, don’t need to wear masks and don’t need to use track and trace. I have looked at the menu on line and see that they do vegan Fishless Fish and Chips with Crispy Quorn fish style fillets.

Why oh why oh why, as I so often find myself asking, do the producers of vegan food have to align it with meat? Why not just advertise battered slabs of tasteless crap served with chips and peas. Vegans are hardy souls, I’m sure they could take it on the chin with a description of what they are about to be given. Mentioning fish three times in a vegan menu description doesn’t make the Quorn sound better, it just makes me think of succulent flakes of fresh fish in crisp golden batter.

Stone on the Floor

 

 

Friday – a middling sort of day

I missed posting yesterday because things were a bit hectic, and I’m close to missing today’a post because they have been busy today too. Number One Son is home for a quick visit, the first time we have seen him since Christmas. We have been eating pizza (and salad), discussing the Olympics and trying to get the DVD player to work. I had though he would be useful with the technology but it seems that DVD players are out of date. I can’t tell you what is in date as I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Superficially it was like English, but when it was all strung together t was like staring into purgatory. The future is not a welcoming place and seems to contain a lot of clouds . . .

Meanwhile, I have had two emails today, which just goes to show that rejections, like buses, always come along in groups. One magazine didn’t actually reject me (they declined me) but did so in such a way that I have decided I may not offer them the fruits of my labours next time round. The other did reject me, but did so with  alight touch and a helpful comment. I liked that better.

Generally, though, they just bounced off me. A year into my great poetic effort (great effort that is, not great poetry) I have grown a carapace that deflects the sting of rejection and allows me to carry on crawling towards my goal, indifferent to rejection, no matter what they may call it.

We are having cheesecake now, to round off the pizza. I like having visitors.

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

 

 

 

Web, Mesh or Net?

After a week or so of opening on a different page WP has now gone back to opening on a page I can actually use. By the standards of modern doublespeak this is probably the “new and improved” version. Take something away at random, reinstate it, and, if asked, tell people it is an upgrade.

I had an email about a similar thing. I can, it seems, pay for Jetpack to give me a search function. I already pay enough for a product that is worse than it was when I started, and I thought I already had a search function. First we had lying, then we had marketing, now we have people on the internet who try to sell you stuff you used to get for free. It’s a gradual decline to moral bankruptcy that we already see in our politicians and TV stations (you know – the ones that now call it “Plus 1” when it used to be called “repeats”).

It’s 8.36 and I decided I would have  ago at starting my day with some focus. It nearly worked. I have read my emails and a few blogs but mainly fixed my mind on writing this post. Later I will send a couple of submissions off and then do some housework. Yes, there is so much debris on my writing table that I can’t see the lower edge of the computer screen. I don’t need month old blood test results, used padded envelopes or notebooks from last year. The results will be recycled, the envelopes taken to work (for reuse as packaging) and the notebooks can go into a box until an American University puts in an offer for my papers. Or until Julia makes me throw them out.

That’s good, 8.53. The advantage of having no structure and no research is that blogging (by which I mean dumping the contents of my head on a page) can be quite quick.

This is in contrast to submitting poetry, where I am about to spend twenty minutes deciding whether to use “web” or “mesh” or “net” . . .

It’s not easy being a poet.

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  . . .

 

When Alliteration Goes Bad . . .

I’m not sure what I’ve done, but I seem to have a new page when I start WP, giving me the chance to savour the whole WP experience. I don’t just a blog to write and people to see, I now have a few extra buttons and the sense that something random just happened. Good old WP, always something new and confusing.

We will be starting Numismatic Society meetings at the end of the summer, unless, of course, we have to cancel them again. It has been tricky organising speakers but the Secretary has done a sterling job (he is also the shop owner, so I have to say that) and some of the talks do look quite interesting. It will be nice to get back towards normal. It’s a big room and we don’t usually have more than 12 members attending, so social distancing won’t be a problem. The Banknote Society is also starting meetings but their Secretary has decided that they should limit it to ten members, and they have to apply for a place. I can see that causing some annoyance.

As I have said before – people who like making rules have loved  lockdown.

And that brings me onto the subject of alliteration. Apparently I have to practice it if I want to be a poet (another gem from that book I was telling you about). Unless you want to be a haiku poet, where alliteration and poetic devices are frowned upon. Well, that’s what they tell you. In fact some haiku editors are quite happy with alliteration. I’ve even seen it mentioned favourably when they have been picking their favourites. There is no consistency.

Anyway, as i left Julia at work I spotted two magpies in the road – clearly parent and child. The words “fat, fluffy fledgling” came to my mind, but they don’t work well, they are not alliterative, they are just  tongue-twister about a flat fluffy fledgling or, more confusingly a fat fluffy fedgling. I really don’t know what’s wrong with it, but I can’t make it fit a poem, there’s just something wrong with the words. Strange, isn’t it?

Magpie

 

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