Category Archives: poetry

The Day Declines and I Quote Kipling

It was all going too well. I made lunch (which included Ryvita crispbreads instead of ordinary bread), I washed up and I cooked the evening mal ready for when Julia returns. It’s panhaggerty, though I’m not going to melt the cheese on top – too much fat, too many calories….

This proved to be the high point of the day.

First, as I opened the fridge door a pyrex plate slid out and smashed on the floor. There were two cold sausages on it, so I invoked the ten second rule and threw them into a pan of hot fat to kill any bacteria from the floor. That meant I had to have  a sausage sandwich. So, smashed plate, glass all over the place and my diet gone for a Burton.

As I made the sausage sandwich  I looked down on the work surface and realised that I’d left the second layer of bacon out of the panhaggerty. I had to prod it down without disturbing the layers too much. Then, forgetting that I was only wearing socks, I walked across the badly swept area where the plate had smashed. Fortunately the bits I found were only small and they didn’t do any damage, just gave me a bit of a surprise.

Next, it was over to check emails as I ate the sandwich. Part of the sausage fell out o0nto the carpet. I really have been pushing the ten second rule to its limit.

I had two replies from editors. I always think that a quick reply indicates a rejection so I ate the sandwich first. No point in spoiling a good sandwich. The first on was an acceptance, though I sent off ten haiku and three haibun and only had one haiku accepted. It’s not great, but as I spent two years trying to get into the magazine, I’m happy to have had anything accepted at all.

The second one was from my nemesis, the editor who has never accepted anything I’ve ever sent him at either of the magazines he’s been editing when I’ve tried. In a way it’s a comfort to know that in a n ever changing Covid epidemic he still won’t accept any of my work. He did send a few pointers, which is always useful, and always a good sign when an editor takes the time to do it.

The only problem is that I left room for the reader to interpret, as we are advised to do, and he seems to have interpreted it in a way that I didn’t intend. Not quite sure what this means, but I’m left with the impression that my lack of clarity means I’m an even worse writer than mere rejection suggests. I spent several downcast minutes wondering whether to laugh or cry. Then I started laughing and made a cup of tea.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

Kipling might be old-fashioned and politically suspect, but he can still hit the nail on the head when it counts.

 

 

Hitting the Ground Running

Nine o’clock and the next six hours belong to me. Julia is safely delivered to work, the computer is on and I have a cup of tea steaming by my side. I had a few comments to read and am now going to check my emails.

Imagine one of those calendar pictures that shows time passing in black and white films…

Big news from the emails is that gamekeepers are no longer allowed to kill crows to protect pheasants and red-legged partridges which are being reared for shooting. It probably won’t make a lot of practical difference, but it’s part of the battle to stop the irresponsible keepers who kill birds of prey.

Drifting Sands Haibun has a new guest editor and submissions are open for this month.

Last night I sent two sets of submissions off. Today I want to send a couple more, which is going to involve selection and editing. I will now finish this post and get on with that. IT always seems that life is better when I have plenty of submissions in. It is a bit like lottery tickets – life is better when you are in the game and, until the draw, you can believe you are a rich man. While I wait for an editor to respond, I am a poet. After the rejection I am a failure. Of course, after an acceptance I worry too.  I worry that I will never be published again. I now know that this is Imposter Syndrome, though the ability to name it doesn’t make it go away.

List for the rest of the day –

Wash up breakfast pots (which will allow me to avoid work and feel good about it)

Make soup for lunch (ditto)

Sort out two submissions

Work on partially completed poems

Start two poems I have notes for

Lunch

Write haiku/senryu

Research for article – Bomb Disposal

Research for article – RNLI

Pick Julia up

Cup of tea, TV, nap

Cook stir fry

Write more

Write post (500 words) about how hard I’ve been working today.

Writing Haibun – Warning – May Cause Drowsiness

Saturday 2nd January has proved to be a quiet day. After writing my first post of the day I edited some of my notebooks, browsed some on-line shops and washed up. I moved on to editing my notebooks – typing out three haibun and twelve haiku. They started off as seven haibun and twenty two haiku but some of them were rubbish. I think I must have written one of the haibun while I was asleep as it made no sense at all, and one of the others was so tedious it was probably the one that had sent me to sleep. Several of the haiku were just alternative versions, so one of them had to go.

And, I confess, two of the haiku were unreadable. I think I’ve covered this before. My writing is so bad I( cannot always read it shortly after I write it. Some of these were weeks old and I didn’t have a clue what they had originally been about. I came close to abandoning a haibun too, but there were enough legible/guessable words for me to reconstitute that one.

My Orange Parker Pen

That was all the useful work I did. I made lunch after that, using a pack of four small avocadoes. One, which I had tested, was ripe. The other four turned out to be a bit less than ripe, so needed dicing more than mashing. Julia wanted hers with a poached egg so I boiled the water, swirled it round and gently tipped an egg into it. I think the egg may have been a bit old, and the water may have been swirling a bit too fast as the whole thing seemed to explode in the minute I was away from the pan. I just had a pan of highly dilute scrambled egg. The second, was better, but I cooked it in the bowl of a metal ladle just to be on the safe side.

Fried eggs would have been better but a poached egg seems de rigueur in smashed avo circles so who am I to disagree. I had prawns in mine with a dressing made from ketchup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and black pepper, because I am firmly rooted in the 1970s.

Back to the writing for a moment – for the benefit of new readers, I write using a fountain pen whenever I can, because the words flow better. Even a cheap biro is better than typing. I can rarely type haibun and haiku when I am composing. Magazine articles and essays are fine, but poetry seems to demand a proper writing implement. That’s why I have to accept losing a percentage to illegibility. Better to lose  a few that way than to sit staring at a computer screen writing nothing, or writing things which I then edit into nothingness. It may seem inefficient at first, and I have tried to streamline the process, but it just doesn’t work any other way.

For the rest of the day I watched TV, chatted to Julia and dreamed of pizza. Then I woke up, cooked tea (we had steak as a New Year treat) and started writing this.

Failed Haiku Number 61 is out. Mine are about 40% of the way down under “Simon Wilson”. I’ve got so used to my accidental penname on WP that I feel very dull having an ordinary name. I could make it easy for you by just printing them here, but that doesn’t seem fair to the editor and the other writers. Scroll down until, you see the red feather – I’m a few pages under that. Or you can wait for a month and remind me – I will copy them and paste them in the blog once the new issue is out.

I’m now in what I find to be the toughest bit of the process. Writing is simple. Editing it into something readable isn’t too bad as long as you remember not everything is useful and allow yourself to throw stuff away. Editing for submission – the honing and perfecting, is a bit tricky, as I’m not a great judge of quality. Editing after submitting is quite easy – the editor suggests things and I do them. It’s about publication. I will agonise about my artistic integrity later – there are plenty of words and nothing to prevent me writing another version of the poem I want to write. This one is an example – it’s half the poem I originally submitted and misses out what I thought was an important point. However, it is also good like this and the cut down version is more elegant, so I’m happy to make the cuts.I have, however, rewritten another version of the longer poem, which will be submitted to a magazine this month. Even coping with rejection isn’t the worst bit. It’s an inevitable part of writing for publication, so there’s no point taking it personally.

A Tranquil Pond I once wrote about.

No, the most difficult bit for me is submission. I was sure I’d written about this in the last few days but I can’t find it so I may merely have thought about it, or I may have edited it. Sorry if I’m repeating myself.

Once I have things written and (in theory) edited to near perfection, I have to send them out. There are nearly always more places to send poems than I have poems to send. I have seven places for submissions in january. This means I need 16 haibun and twenty haiku.

In theory I have around 40 haibun ready to go, but in reality some of them aren’t good enough to go. A few of them have been returned by one or more editors, so it’s not just me who thinks that. I have, sensibly, about twenty, but then I have to decide which one suits which magazine. The best ones could go almost anywhere, the les good ones need to be placed where they will be most appreciated. At that point I start to ask myself if I should send anything apart from the very best. It’s like a massive circle. Eventually it all sorts itself out (a looming deadline tends to help concentration) and I start on the next lot.

I’ve now one over a thousand words, which I always think is too many, so I will leave it there.

 

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Endings and Beginnings and Keeping Going

Two days ago I published a  link to my latest published haibun. That night I had an email to discuss some changes to a submission I’d made just before Christmas. I’ve made them so I’m hoping for an acceptance there. Then last night I had a n acceptance for four poems. They are senryu rather than haiku (based on human nature rather than nature) but the line is blurred in English language Japanese-style poetry. It was a bit unexpected as I’ve never been much good with the short poems and, to be honest, never expect much. To have four accepted at one time is close to being unbelievable, and puts my total of short poems published (well, theoretically published – they won’t actually be published until next month) up from two to six, which is a big jump.

It’s quite a good way to end the year – all I need to do now is find a good way to start the New Year.

It goes to show what happens when you set your mind to something. I had a rest at the beginning of the year. I had had a series of rejections, one of my favourite magazines closed and there was a change of editor at another one – a man who has never accepted anything from me, and continues to accept nothing from me. I admit I did give up for a time, but you can’t keep a good man down and at the end of  July, after a lapse of nearly a year, I started submitting again.

Twenty submissions. Nine acceptances. This includes an acceptance from a magazine that turned me down three times previously.

The moral of the story is never give up. And if you do give up, remember that you can always start again. It’s not meant to be easy.

This is a lesson that can be applied to many things, and one which I really ought to remember, because I’m very bad at letting things lapse.

Latest News – just had confirmation the changes are acceptable and I therefore have another acceptance. This is a good end to the year.

 

 

The Last Days of Lockdown

It’s the final week of the second lockdown, and I will be returning to work next week. We will be sticking to our pre-lockdown work pattern of four days a week and, because of the way it falls, I won’t be back in until Friday. I intend to make the most of the next four days.

I don’t have much in the way of poetry  writing to do at the moment because there are no deadlines until January. I think I have everything I need for then, and just have to polish a few bits. I will continue writing, but there is no urgency in it for the moment. I have quite a lot written and am polishing it for January.

At the moment I have a magazine article in progress. I’m struggling with it because I’m writing a list of information which I am reusing from an obituary. The life was interesting, but the process of writing about it is not so interesting.

I have also just had another  haibun published. Try this link to see it – same as usual, scroll down to Simon Wilson. You may like to try a few of the others while you are there. Last week I also had a haiku published in Presence, but that’s a print magazine so there is no link. This is, I think, the fourth time I submitted to Presence, and my first success. I was beginning to give up hope, but thought I’d give it another go. And with that brief word on the importance of persistence, I will leave close.

A Limerick for Lavinia

In a moment of optimism I said, a few days ago, that I would write a poem about Lavinia’s plague of voles. So I had a look at the rhyming dictionary and the list of poetic forms and, to be honest, recoiled in horror. I was thinking of including daffodils but several of the rhymes I was offered (Battle of Bunker Hill and oral contraceptive pill) betrayed a basic lack of understanding about the sort of poems that might include daffodils. Wordsworth never had these problems.

You may recall my discussion about krumholz as a rhyme for vole a couple of days ago.

Well, there is one poetic form I can think of that can accommodate all sorts of poetic horrors (no, not the clerihew, things aren’t that bad) – it’s the limerick – the world’s favourite poem.

An Oregon farmer named Ross
suffered fires, tempests and frost
plus a great plague of voles
all digging their holes
till the cats came to show them who’s boss

For other works in this series see here, here, here and here. And here. Oh, and here. I didn’t realise I’d done so many. I certainly didn’t realise that some of them were so excruciating. I may have to do a collected limericks post, and add some about Boris. I just need a rhyme for farce…

Just in case you get confused, there are two about the well known Mainer, to accommodate both ways of saying scone – the one that rhymes with gone, and the wrong one.

The Abandoned Haibun

A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
PAUL VALERY

This is the post that gave me the thoughts and the photographs for the haibun I recently provided the link to.

It was originally about the passing of the old families and the way the houses have become country parks and similar things. The editor preferred it as a haibun about a place, and I preferred to be published, so it’s now shorter and it’s about a pond. It is more in the haiku tradition in this form, stressing nature and lightness, where the original was less light and more about humans.

However, they were only words and there are plenty more where they came from. I am already at work on a new version of the original piece, which will be back, and will feature a lake when it next appears. It will also be longer, though It will probably remain unpublishable It will live again in  hope if not in print. I was going to make a clever point about haibun, matter and anti-matter at this point but I googled “matter” to check my accuracy and now realise I’m a lot less clever than I thought. Same goes for my witty linking of quark the particle and quark the cheese – I didn’t realise that cheese could be so complicated. I’ve given it up as a bad job.

Sometimes you have to know when enough is enough. It is probably better to leave you with a vision of purple rhododendrons and thoughts of voles, than it is to make a bad joke about cheese.

In the haiku, I note the mention of history is slightly discordant now that the main focus has moved away from. If I’d thought about it longer I may well have altered that too.

As the opening quote suggests, we just keep working on things until we decide to leave them. Time to leave this one and move on to the next imperfect work.

 

 

Publication and Practical Poetry Problems

I’ve just had a haibun published in Wales Haiku Journal. You can find it here. I have a previous one published here.

I noticed, when re-reading The Duckpond (published about two years earlier) , that I seem to write about ponds a lot. Am I in danger of becoming type-cast, possibly even being known to posterity as The Pond Poet?

It’s another possible problem to add to running out of ideas, losing my ability to write and being found out. Because the problems of writing something good enough for publication aren’t enough, I need more fears to fill the time as I lie awake at night.

With coronavirus I can now fill that time with thoughts of death, losing my job and the collapse of society, but once we have a vaccine I can start worrying about how I will be seen by future generations.

However, this isn’t a post about worry, it’s about haibun. I’m currently in the middle of reorganising my computer files, as they had degenerated into chaos and I have been having difficulty finding things. This led to me submitting four poems to a magazine, then wishing I hadn’t.

One was an accidental double submission (which I think I mentioned before) but fortunately the other editor rejected it. Two of the others were not final versions. When I looked at them again, I realised that one was an incomplete version of a revision and one was a fully revised version but, unfortunately, one that had been further revised and improved.

I’m now waiting to get them back. It’s easier, I think just to get them back and suffer the ignominy of looking unprofessional, rather than try to explain and resubmit.

Hopefully the new system will stop this happening.

Then all I need is a way of filing haiku. Tiny little poems with no titles. I have hundreds of them, and they are refusing to cooperate. It’s like grains of sand pouring out of a hole in a bucket. They are all over the place and I have completely lost track.

They don’t tell you about this in haiku books. They tell you about lightness and simplicity and all that stuff but are completely silent on the subject of indexing, storage and finding them again once you have written them.

Tuesday – Thoughts on Titles

Does the title give it away? I’ve been having to think about titles recently as part of my general “upping the game” policy for haibun. With WP you can just throw a few words in the title box and you are done. If I can add some alliteration I consider it a good day and if I can work a pun into it I turn mental cartwheels. But with haibun they expect much more.

A haibun title should draw the reader in and enthuse them to read on, It should link to the prose and haiku, without giving it away, and it should, after the reader has finished, add a further dimension or other meaning.

That’s slightly different to the way I generally view a title, which is a way to identify the work when I want to find it again. I can see a major reassessment is needed.

I’ve actually looked at the titles of a few haibun by people who have criticised my titles. Guess what? I just read half a dozen haibun. One title drew me in. Several were dull. One linked to the haiku but neither the title nor the haiku linked to the prose. A couple seemed to have nothing to do with anything that followed. None of them changed meaning after I finished reading the haibun, though several puzzled me by, as mentioned above, seeming to have nothing to do with the haibun. I could go on.

My point? Some of these simple things are harder than they look and even the great and the good struggle to get it right.

It might be that they are getting it right and I am just too plodding to recognise the fact.

So – three things to learn from today.

One – work harder on titles, using these guidelines.

Two – develop critical reading skills.

Three – editors don’t always follow their own advice.

That, I think, is enough for now. I’m now going to apply these lessons to my latest haibuns “Crap haibun I threw together between games of Freecell” and “Number 82”. It’s likely that they can both be improved.