Category Archives: poetry

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 Dying of the Light

I have just finished eating a miserable, boring and tasteless meal. Low salt baked beans, low fat oven chips and cheap burgers. Even a large spoonful of chilli jam couldn’t bring it to life. This is, I suppose it’s the cost of being healthy.

Not for the first time, I have found myself pondering if life is worth the trouble if you have to extend it unnaturally by eating pap. In fact, after my last few weeks I’ve been asking myself the same question in general, regardless of the quality of my diet.

Even having another haibun published hasn’t cheered me up.  Generally I like to mention my successes in posts, smile modestly and simper a bit whilst feeling mildly smug. This morning I just looked at it, saw all the imperfections and uttered a small sigh.

Click here if you want to read it. But don’t feel you have to, if you are here to hear me moaning about life just read on. For a good poem, click here.

I wonder if Dylan Thomas ever looked at his poems and uttered a small sigh.

Today’s annoyance in the shop was a gas man, who insisted on walking round the shop with a meter, checking for gas leaks. We don’t have any gas leaks. This may be because we don’t have any gas, but we had to have it done anyway in case they were leaking next door.

Tomorrow they will be digging up the road in front of the shop looking for a gas leak. I’m not sure if I mentioned it last time they dug the road up looking for a gas leak. It was about a month ago. There ought to be a rule that if they have to do the job twice they don’t get paid for the first one.

As if that wasn’t bad enough they have just started major gas works, with road closures, on our way to work. The signs say it will take six weeks. It didn’t cause too many problems this morning, but it’s school holidays so things are always easier on the roads. The real test will be in two weeks when the schools go back.

When you’re growing up your parents never tell you about days like this.

A Limerick (2)

It has just been brought to my attention in the previous post, by John, of John’s Postcards that a large number of people mispronounce the word scone. It’s not their fault. They have clearly been badly counselled at some time in the past and have failed to correct the error. It doesn’t make them bad people, just misguided, and I decided to write a limerick for them too.

A Mainer, who is quite well known,

noted winter had been knocked from its throne.

She’d grown tired of muffins

and decided that nothing

could compare to a Great British scone.

It’s wrong, and I probably shouldn’t encourage them in their heresy, but in the end I like scones for the way they taste, not how they sound.

 

A Limerick

It grew from a comment Laurie made on my post about scones/muffins. I woke up just after six this morning and wrote a couple of drafts then finished it this evening. It’s not perfect but it will do to spread a little light cheeriness and fill my need for a post a day.

 

A Mainer, who was seldom wrong,

noted winter was nearly all gone.

She’d grown tired of muffins

and decided that nothing

could compare to a Great British scone.

The Duckpond

Several of you have expressed an interest in seeing some of my haiku/haibun. I realise this is a sign of kindness rather than a burning desire to read self-edited poetry of variable quality, but I do appreciate it.

I’m afraid I’m not very forthcoming, because I tend to write for magazine publication and, occasionally, for competition. They generally don’t accept work that has already been seen, and as I never seem to have enough material that’s good enough to submit it makes it hard to find something to show.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation – I can’t show the best ones and I don’t want to show you the second quality ones.

As a compromise, if you follow this link to Wales Haiku Journal and scroll down to The Duckpond, you can read my latest haibun.  If you are a regular reader you may recognise the pond, and the trolley.

Part of the problem is the time they need to mature. I’m currently working on pieces that were written three or four months ago. My last attempt on the blog was written in haste and didn’t quite work.

I’m sure there is a way round it, and will apply myself to searching. Maybe I need a 100 Day Haibun Challenge…

Another 100 Day Challenge – Haiku

It’s Day 100 of the Haiku Challenge.

I now have over 1,000 haiku of indeterminate quality. Some of them aren’t haiku, some are senyru. Some are more like fragments, or notes. And many of them are merely bad.

Having taken all that into consideration, was it worth it?

Undoubtedly. I’ve learned a lot from the experience, including that in any 100 day challenge you are going to come to hate what you are doing. Whether this holds true for my new challenge remains to be seen.

I first came up with the idea from reading this this post whilst browsing the net for haiku-related posts. I then moved on to reading this article, which is a lot more ambitious.

My “rules”, garnered from the article, were simple. Ten haiku a day for 100 days, avoiding too much censorship and writing extra to catch up if I couldn’t manage ten one day. As the article admitted that experienced writers were only getting one good haiku out of ten or twenty attempts I felt justified in taking a laid back attitude.

So, what did I learn?

Well, I became more fluent in my writing and found ideas came more easily.

I became addicted to writing and couldn’t rest if I didn’t write at least ten a day. Apart from the days I needed a rest, because there were several days where I hated haiku so badly that I couldn’t write one. That did happen a couple of times, but I soon got over it after a day off.

I also ran out of nature several times. Despite becoming more observant and making better notes as time went on, I found I was struggling with enough nature observations to keep myself going. You don’t see much nature when you are just driving through town to work and back, and magpies and bare branches are simply not enough to feed a heavy haiku habit.

Towards the end of the time I noticed I was writing three line poems with the rhythms and vocabulary of haiku.

That last point is quite important. I started with a lot of long words and details which aren’t really needed in haiku. A three syllable word in a haiku, remember, is three thirteenths of the syllables needed for a modern haiku (seventeen is now considered old-fashioned). Three thirteenths of a sonnet is near enough three lines, so you can see how condensed a haiku is, and why you can’t waste a single syllable.

That was probably the most important thing I learned.

Now, it’s time to take Number Two Son to work.

Over the next few weeks I will do some rewriting and may show you a few poems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Haibun

I’m watching TV and typing on my laptop. I am thus able to blog, watch TV and develop a Repetitive Strain Injury at the same time.

Currently, I’m pondering the question of haibun. Having spent ages labouring over villanelles and sonnets, and often discarding the malformed results, it seems like cheating to call a haibun a poem. It is, after all, only a few lines of text and up to seventeen syllables of haiku. The main challenge isn’t the poetry, it’s the brevity.

You could probably write a blog post, add a haiku and call the whole thing a haibun. In fact, I know you can, because that’s what I’m about to do.

 

waking stiff

too old to doze in chairs

another sign