Category Archives: poetry


Philosophy or Just a Dull Post?

Back to normal stuff for now.

The poetry results for January are in. I submitted four selections to magazines and three to competitions. The competition entries will take ages yet and will probably disappear without trace. However, I just had my fourth acceptance out of the four sent to magazines  for January. That hides a number of things, including that today’s acceptance is one haiku selected from ten, and I seriously believe that even then  the editor just takes one to encourage me rather than because they are any good.

The unvarnished figures are 25 submitted – four accepted. It’s not quite the same as four out of four when you look at it like that.

Looking on the bright side, I have 21 poems which are now available to go out again.  It seems a shame to waste the effort, particularly as experience shows that a number of the rejects aren’t that far off being acceptable. You sometimes have to accept that there is only so much space in a magazine and you can’t have more than your fair share. Sometimes I’ve had two or three accepted by an editor, which is good. But when it happens I always feel that I have taken a slot someone else might have been happy to have.

Canal Wall – Stoke on Trent

When I see magazines that have published four or five pieces from one writer, as sometimes happens, I actually feel resentful at times. Even if they are five good pieces I often wonder if the space could have been used better. If a poet is good, they don’t need the validation of multiple acceptances, but there might be someone who is struggling and would love to get just one piece published. That one piece might make the difference between continuing or giving up.

This is similar to the two different approaches to junior sports. Are you there to spread healthy exercise, teamwork and an appreciation of effort? Or are you there to pick out the naturally talented kids and push them on to greater things (including greater reflected glory for the coaches?). I’ve seen both. I’ve seen coaches who have managed to combine both approaches. I’ve also seen rabid parents and over-ambitious coaches who have spoiled sport for both their kids and the children of others.

Stack of books burning

I’ve just been reading some words from an editor, who says that they feel they are there to reflect the breadth of writing from their readership, rather than to select writing that conforms to the narrow vision of the editor. Not every editor takes that view, and I feel that can be a problem at times. I’m not telling editors what to do, as they all give a lot of time up to do the job, but I do wonder which approach serves the writing community better.

Boasting, Bragging and Blowing My Own Trumpet

You’ve read the title, so brace yourself for a lack of modesty and some tasteless self-promotion.

Normally I wouldn’t warn people, but having recently seen that the University of Greenwich is issuing warnings to students about the disturbing content of jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, I felt I’d better follow the trend. I’ve never actually read Northanger Abbey, though I was traumatised by previous attempts to read Austen. Her books are just so dull when compared to the films and TV series. However, if I had read it, I doubt I would be distressed by the “gender stereotyping” I encountered. If they find that distressing how are they going to cope with Orwell, Hemingway and H P Lovecraft? Or even Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh and the Mr Men, who all cover some hardcore issues compared to jane Austen and gender stereotyping? If they need a warning about the horror of reading jane Austen, what about Shakespeare? Yes, Titus Andronicus, I’m thinking about you . . .

Love Locks at Bakewell

You see more gender stereotyping on reality TV than you do in a classic novel, and so far, unfortunately, nobody has thought to issue a warning about Love Island. I was going to add a link here, but have decided against advertising it.

Anyway, back to my warning.

I had another acceptance. That’s three from the seven I sent out. Allowing for the fact that three are competition entries (where I expect to wait months to find I wasn’t shortlisted) it’s really three from four. I’m happy with that.

That’s the warm-up bragging.

Peak Shopping Village

The other comes in the form of Contemporary Haibun 18, which is an annual anthology. Entries are sent in by the editors of magazines and poems are selected for inclusion. The goal, according to the Forward, is to present “some of the finest haibun, tanka prose and haiga created over the past year”.

Right at the back of the book, lurking in the “W” section, is one of mine. I know it’s not a mistake, because they wrote and asked. Waiting for the book to be published I was quietly smug, and when it actually arrived today I was, for a moment, very pleased with myself. However, it’s important to note that there are 91 other writers in there, and 24 of them have multiple entries, so I am going to show off now by telling everyone, and then I’m going to start making notes for new poetry.

That’s the problem with things like this – you have to keep working harder and harder to make sure the feeling of happiness continues.

An attempt at artistry

Adventures with a Keyboard

It is done. It is not done well, but by the end I was just concentrating on the clock. My 7th submission departed my email box at 11.45pm, a full fifteen minutes before the deadline. The eighth, I had already mentally abandoned.

I have learnt some useful lessons about writing in the last few weeks, so it hasn’t been the chaotic waste it may look like from the outside. I’ve also learnt about time management. Or possibly I have relearnt that, as I tend to make the same mistake over and over – not allowing enough time, and always over-estimating my ability to work at high speed as the deadline approaches.

Turning on my email this morning I found I had already had one acceptance – an editor with superpowers. How can anyone work that fast? Also, of course, an editor with exquisite taste.

In my haste, Iet a typo slip through in the accepted tanka prose. This is embarrassing and amateurish. Unfortunately, in missing off the “t” from “the” I still made the word “he” and my lazy reliance on spellcheckers let me down.

Even worse, I woke this morning and remembered that one of the other submissions went off with a single word descriptive title title. You are supposed to be more complicated when submitting tanka prose and haibun. Unfortunately, I tend to start with a title that helps me find it when it’s mixed up with forty or fifty other poems. It’s something I’ve done before when I’ve been rushing. If the poem is good I will probably be asked to do a new title. If it isn’t, I will be able to come up with a new one as part of the edit. I’ve just thought of a good one whilst writing this.

Blood test now. See you later.

My Orange Parker Pen

Love Laziness and a Lively Discussion

It is so tempting to call this one “The Second Post of the Year”. Using numbers freed me up from thinking about titles for much of last year, but in the end it is boring and uninformative, so I have resisted temptation.

At the time of writing I have not yet decided what to call the post. It may be something side-splittingly funny. The balance of probability suggests it won’t be, but we can hope. At the moment, I can’t even think of three words that start with the same letter.

Big news of the day is that I submitted ten poems on 31st December and have just had two accepted. It’s a good start to the New Year. Even better, I can send the other eight off to one of the magazines accepting submissions this month.

Using Kindle I had another go at Charlicountryboy’s book. I bought the paperback just before Christmas but haven’t managed to read anything apart from non-fiction (which you can dip in and out off) since having Covid. I’m still not back to fiction, but that is down to old eyes, which aren’t a problem when you have an illuminated page. It’s a good book and I will be reviewing it soon.

That’s about it for now. It hasn’t been a lively day, though we did have some discussion on how lazy I was which provided a few minutes of witty cut and thrust. I ordered McDonald’s via Just Eat and this is considered to be the height of idleness by Julia. However, if I’d toasted bread and warmed up some beans that would have been industrious. I don’t see much difference. Beans on toast is cheaper and almost certainly healthier, but it’s not to much fun and we’d have missed the Festive Pies. Plus it would have made washing up. Lazy? Possibly. Efficient? Undoubtedly. A lovely festive gesture for my beloved. Apparently not.

Having failed in my attempt to attract sponsorship from Parker Pens I am trying a new target for 2023 – I’ve always like McDonald’s. . .

Old Oaks of Sherwood Forest

Some Haiku

I’m always a bit worried about posting poetry because it’s not really a poetry blog. It seems a little unfair to force people to read poetry if they haven’t signed up for it, particularly as people feel obliged to be nice. That’s why I rarely post poetry that hasn’t been published elsewhere first. At least that way, it has been filtered by a proper editor and should be OK.

However, a while ago I did say that I would post a few, so here are a few haiku and senryu to start.

Three lines and a web of rules/definitions/restrictions don’t really suit me. I’d love to be a competent writer of haiku, but I’m locked in a circular system with them. I find them difficult so I don’t write many, and because I don’t write many I don’t improve. It’s also why I struggle with haibun too, as I can write the prose, but can’t nail the haiku. They are, as I say in an unpublished essay on writing haiku, slippery. Give me a tanka, with five lines and freedom from restrictions and I find it a lot easier. The same goes for Tanka Prose, the clumsy name for the Haibun equivalent that uses a tanka in place of the haibun.

I suppose if I were a serious poet, I would accept the challenge of haiku but I actually write for the pleasure of seeing words do things, not because I like difficulty.

Here are a few with a vaguely Christmas/Winter theme. The first has been adapted from a senryu that originally had the first line “Birthday” but it still works.

bright paper packages
-the disappointment of socks

Failed Haiku April 2022

melting snow
rooks stalk
the dappled field

Presence Issue 69

a robin
sings from the blackthorn
we queue for the shop

Wales Haiku Journal Spring  2021

lighter nights
the bus passenger smiles
on his way home

Presence Issue 72

I put them in two columns to make the layout slightly more interesting, but it has the effect of altering the formatting for the ones that  are in the second row. Many people do centre their poems so I think I can get away with it. I tried using three columns but that involves right hand justification and that definitely looks odd. I’m sure there’s another way to do it but I’m not sure I have the spare thought capacity to devote to it at the moment. I have ten poems to submit before in the next 38 hours and they aren’t cooperating.

Robin of Sherwood

A New Record

I sent a group of poems out yesterday evening, and had an acceptance later that night. It’s a new speed record for an acceptance, and probably a sign that I’m not the only one champing at the bit after a few days off.

There is one more set of submissions to send off before the end of the year (or within the next two days, to put it another way, though that sounds a bit more desperate). I am just about on top of that, but as soon as that ends I am straight into a month with five more submissions needed. That’s quite daunting as this hasn’t been a productive month and I have little left to send.

I thought I had plenty down on paper but when i looked again a few weeks ago I realised I had quite a bit written, but nothing finished. A good number of the pieces had bits missing as i struggled to find the right words and I’m still no closer finishing them. This isn’t unusual and most of them will eventually be completed. It’s just that if I get myself in the position of being unable to finish I often find it can take months to get it right.

I’ve been going through things tonight and have tinkered with several I’ve also cut a couple substantially because both language and thoughts were sloppy. None of them are actually finished yet, but I have four weeks until they really need to be sent. Fortunately I have another selection in draft form – either as notes or in on paper, so I have not yet run dry.

Pre-Covid I had myself organised so I was able to send things out on the first day of a submission window opening. I always feel that puts you at an advantage. Submit early and you only have to be good. Submit late and you have to be good, and be better than the people who submitted earlier.

Since Covid, and my several months of inability to write, I have not yet caught up. I will, but it won’t be this year.

My Orange Parker Pen

Note to self – Parker Pens seem impervious to my attempts to earn money, or free pens, from product placement.

Wednesday Part 2

The second one of the day, being the one that really belongs to Wednesday (despite being written Thursday in the early hours). The other Wednesday one was Tuesday, but a day late. Such is, as I have noted before, the flexibility of WordPress.

I received two poetry magazines through the post on Tuesday night – one containing two tanka of mine and one containing three tanka and a haiku.. Because they are print journals I can’t provide a link, and can’t quote them just yet, as I always feel the print journals should have a period without competition. Some of them do specify a time, most don’t, but I feel it’s fair to give them a while.

Humorous postcard from a time when they taught spelling in schools. Not times when people email “u” for you.

This proves I must be doing something right, though in the case of the haiku I am doing less right than I am with the tanka. Time now, with half a dozen publication windows open, to knuckle down and get some work done. Part of this work really should be writing haiku to practice, but it’s far easier to write tanka. I may have to come up with some academic, poetic reason, but the truth is that they are easier to write and people publish them.

On a less artistic level, the carrot and lentil soup turned out well. It has solidified as it cooled but it tastes good and the question of density is soon corrected with a little water. If only poetry were as easy to fix.

It’s time to start addressing the Christmas cards now. I’m never quite sure when it is a good time to do this. It needs to be early enough for the cards to get there but not so early that you look like someone who spends all year organising themselves for Christmas. Then there is the etiquette of the Christmas letter. Nobody has died this year, so I haven’t seen any of my cousins. The enclosed letter needs to have enough news to justify the writing, but not so much that it is boring. This year I think the news that Number One Son has moved to Norwich and Number two Son has bought a flat in Toronto and bought a dog is probably enough.  They don’t need to know that I am becoming steadily more decrepit, am too tight to put the heating on or cook soup from leftovers of questionable quality. I reserve that sort of news for WordPress.

A card that only makes sense if you remember times before zip flies were universal.

Today’s selection of cards are pre-war humour containing such concepts as winter drawers, home sewing, spelling and button flies. |What different times we live in.

Poetry in Translation – The Trouble with Tits

At one time I was fascinated by foreign languages, but frustrated by my lack of talent in learning them. What I should have done, while I still had the intellect, was to have learned them in a more structured way. I had a friend who wanted to do languages at University and he used to give himself a target to memorise a list of words each week. If only I had learnt then what it took me another forty years to realise – talent isn’t necessary, and hard work  will always beat it.

At the back of my mind, since looking at haiku in translation, I have become convinced that writing haiku in foreign languages isn’t difficult. It can’t be, because there aren’t many worlds and there are no complicated ideas. This is strange, as I make hard work of them in English, so really can’t imagine they are less difficult in a foreign language. Such thoughts are often born from a position of ignorance, so I’m probably going to alter my position on that subject.

Also at the back of my mind, in that portion where the world is a strange place and reality has little to do with my thoughts, is a vague thought that even if you are a native English speaker, that isn’t enough to enable you to write haiku for Americans.

For one thing, the guidelines generally given fro writing haiku are often ignored by American editors so I don’t have a clue what they really want.

And for another, you have the “two nations divided by a common language” problem.Take birds, for instance. As I look out of my window, I see Blue Tits and Great Tits in reasonable numbers. This is not a family of birds familiar to the American reader. They have chickadees. In any case, I tend to steer clear of tits in poetry, as the ambiguity of the word tends to encourage smutty levity and the proliferation of limerick type verses.

Until the Great War they were known as titmice, if you look in older bird books. This is just one more area where the war encouraged the decline of society – the others being votes for women and the popularity of the wrist watch. Life was much easier when women let us think we were in charge and where watches were commonly worn in waistcoats. The decline in standards can, I am convinced, be blamed on the decline of the waistcoat. You don’t need a watch pocket if you have the infernal device strapped to your wrist, and without a waistcoat all you are left with is a gravy-stained shirt. No waistcoat, no gravitas.

Back at the poetry/ornithology interface, how do you get round the chickadee/tit problem? Tits have one syllable, chickadees have three. You can’t just slip in one word as a substitute for another. In haiku syllables are important. In a poem limited to 17 syllables, adding two is a difficult task. Three syllables are a sixth of the poem. Do that calculation for a sonnet and it’s over two lines. That is significant length. At least with the goldcrest/kinglet translation there is no syllable problem. You might be OK translating chickadee and long-tailed tit, but who in his right mind is going to try to get long-tailed tit into a haiku?

Anyway, Julia is 125 miles away, visiting Number One Son in his new Norwich home, and I am already thinking about a Chinese takeaway. Or possibly a curry. One thing I’m definitely not thinking about is salad. So, I’m going to leave it here, and start behaving like a bachelor. Loads of TV featuring archaeology and machinery and no diet. And definitely no washing up until it’s twenty minutes from Julia’s estimated return.

Photo by Pixabay on

Some thoughts on Long Covid

I made six submissions last month, all apart from one were in the final week of the month. This month I have only two submissions to make, and have made them both already.

This is a welcome return to what I consider normality. Twelve months ago I was able to make the month’s submissions on the days the submission windows opened. Illness intervened and I found myself entering a period where I was mainly editing work that was already written, and I was struggling to complete it and submit for the end of the period. After six months I started writing new poems again, and it is only this month that I have managed to get far enough ahead to submit closer to the beginning of the period.

I could have submitted sooner, but have become lazy in the last year.

The advantage of submitting earlier in the period is that (in my theory, at least) you establish yourself as the favoured candidate, and later submissions have to work harder to push you out.

The advantage of submitting later is that you (probably) have more time to let the piece mature (unless, like me, you are struggling to keep up) and you get answers quicker, as decisions are made within days of submission rather than waiting until the end of the month.

In years to come, the mythical PhD student I always think I’m writing for, will be able to read this post and add it to the list of Long Covid symptoms – difficulty in writing new poetry. I didn’t write anything new for several months after Covid, and even struggled to knock the existing writing into shape. I then spent a long time struggling to write anything new – resulting in missed deadlines and lots of last minute submissions. Finally I managed to find some form and, for the last month, have finally started writing with fluidity again. The plan for next month is that I will submit as much as possible in the first week of the month, using things which I am finalising now.

What a difference a year makes.

Danger of Tedium . . .

Sorry, another day and another late night slump in front of TV. Julia woke me to tell me she was going to bed and I fell asleep again. I awoke with a head full of peculiar dreams (I’d obviously being listening to TV as I slept) and found the remote on the floor, where it had obviously dropped when I drifted off.

You didn’t miss much, as it was a truly boring day. The man with the “13 gold guineas” didn’t turn up, but we had always suspected that might be the case. A dealer did turn up with a load of junk, which is always interesting as some of it was quite interesting – one man’s trash being another man’s treasure as they always say. Silver has gone up so he wanted to cash in his lower grade coins and he also had various bits he’d bought in auction which are not his normal type of stock. The other two enjoyed themselves with that and I ended up with the task of writing up empty display cases for eBay. They are easy enough, but not very interesting.

Today (Sunday) has mostly consisted of bacon croissants, ginger biscuits and going through old emails. I lost my list of submissions when the computer failed, and I need to get it back together for future use. If I want to reprint anything (I’m still ambivalent about putting a book together) I will need all the details of first publication. A trawl through the emails has netted me 22 haiku (which was a surprise, as I thought it was only about a dozen) and 20 tanka. I have not been writing tanka very long, but am obviously better at them than I am at haiku.  I know there are a few tanka missing from that total and I think I know where to track them down, so suspect that the amended figure might see tanka outstripping haiku.

And suddenly, from telling you that I had a boring day on Saturday, I start telling you I spent Sunday making lists. Sorry about that – let’s hope Part 2 is more interesting.