Category Archives: poetry

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.

Insights into a Lack of Success

The odds of acceptance in one of the poetry magazines I submit to is, according to their submission guidelines, about 1%. Every year I send four in, and every year I get  four back. I do, however find it an uplifting experience as the editor is always very kind about my efforts, and does tend to reply quite quickly. In this case the quick replies are standard practice and I don’t take them to mean that they want my poetry off the premises asap. (I’ve just had another rejection, by the way, in case it wasn’t clear).

One percent is a very small target to aim for (though not as small as the chance of winning the lottery) and I wonder if I might be better increasing my odds of success by looking elsewhere. The trouble is that I quite like the magazine, even though it is a literary magazine rather than a poetry magazine. Half of the content goes straight over my head and is printed in space that should, in my view, be full of poetry.

It’s tricky, because I do think you ought, at my level, to subscribe to magazines if you want to be in them, so if I’m going to look elsewhere it involves more expense, or shifting allegiances.

By “my level” I mean someone submitting to three or four magazines once a year each. My conventional poetry output is much smaller than my haibun production, though I’m going to have to work a bit harder on it if I’m going to make the cut for next Poet Laureate. The current one only has nine years left and if I don’t get it then I’ll be 81 before I get another chance. By that time I probably won’t be bothered.

Anyway, as one door closes another door opens and this rejection gets me out of a hole. The four returned poems, with a couple of others I have hanging around, give me just enough for four to another magazine before their submission window closes and two to the National Poetry Competition. I keep saying I’m going to stop entering, but the lure of fame and fortune is too strong. Not that I’ll stand a chance if the current trend for nastiness continues. I was seriously thinking of writing a poem about dead puppies, just to see what happened.

I say “thinking”, but confess that I did actually make a start, so I can tell you what happened. Julia banned me from writing it. That, I think, is a convenient place to end.

A Few Words For Our Leader

Whilst chatting to Tootlepedal last night in the comments section, I was able to formulate an acronym for Boris. He asked me if I could make it into a haiku, but I admit I am unequal to the challenge. It runs to twenty syllables and even the old-fashioned 5-7-5 Haiku only run to seventeen. I have managed to work it into a haibun.

Warning – contains an acronym of dubious taste.

After admiring the acronym POTUS for some time, I have decided that our Prime Minister needs an acronym. I’m still working on one as a general acronym for our leader, but have managed to develop one specific to Boris. Few, I imagine, would dispute that he is a Famously Unprincipled Conservative Kingpin Without Intelligent Thought.

Julia says it won’t catch on.

a few letters
to sum up his Covid work
RIP

Thoughts on Rejection

I’ve had five rejections in the last month and have had several different reactions.

A feeling of being rejected was, strangely, not one of the reactions. A rejection, in this sense, is only the expression of one editor’s view on that particular day.

One of them was quite interesting, as it involved haiku. I don’t usually write them, despite them being an essential part of a haibun, and it’s something I should do more often. I’m resigned to them being rejected but every so often I submit some anyway to see what people think.

My most recent attempts bounced back with the news that only a third of submissions had any success, and telling me which two had been considered the strongest candidates. I don’t feel too bad about rejection when I know two out of three are rejected.

Two submissions bounced back within days, which I always take as a sign they weren’t even close. There’s not much you can say about that. I probably should learn to be more analytical and to send things that match the content of the magazine. I can do that in one case.

The other case was a guest editor, and it’s slightly more difficult to guess what they want, particularly when they don’t give you a clue. It can, of course, be tricky working out what they want when they do give you a clue. They told me they weren’t a good fit for that issue. I am as wise after reading that comment a dozen times as I was before I read it the first time.

I suppose it’s difficult finding ways to reject people without insulting them or giving them something to argue about.

One of the other submissions was returned with no further information. That was fair, as the submissions weren’t particularly good. It was another guest editor job and I’d sent two pieces which weren’t really finished because I thought they matched the style of the guest editor, an error I won’t make again. I hate being made to look unprofessional, even if I do it to myself.

The final one was returned with the observation that the haiku didn’t add depth to the prose as they were too similar. That’s a comment I’ve had before.

The other comment I have had before is that the haiku don’t harmonise with the prose and therefore fail to add depth.

It’s very difficult knowing what to do. Are your haiku too similar or too dissimilar? And will they be the same tomorrow? Maybe I just suffer from shallow haiku. It just occurred to me that my fascination for improper acronyms could have a field day with Shallow Haiku. As they generally come at the end, I could say that the trouble with my haibun is that they are Shallow Haiku in Termination.

Some Haibun News

I’m using the header picture of the stones to warn you I’m going to be talking poetry, so continue with care if you are not the poetic type.

I submitted a couple of haibun to a magazine in the early hours of this morning, and just nine hours later I had the rejection. It was hardly a surprise. When I saw the answer was back so soon I realised it wasn’t going to be good news. Editors don’t generally rush to acceptance, they like to take their time. A case in point is a piece I currently have out – it took eight weeks to get a reply, which asked me to make alterations. I made the alterations and I’ve now been waiting nearly a month for a decision. Sometimes it’s hard not to be cynical.

Would I rather have an acceptance taking 12 weeks or a rejection taking just nine hours? It’s a tricky question. I don’t really like waiting 12 weeks, but I’m not keen on being rejected either. (I have to add that I’ve waited a lot longer than 12 weeks in the past, so it’s not a terrible length of time. However, haibun magazines in the 21st century seem to be able to get answers out a lot quicker these days).

I’m working on the netbook at the moment whilst watching Judge Dredd (the Stallone version, which I always enjoy) so I can’t access my list of submissions – I’ll report on the numbers later, but I’m in a bit of a slump at the moment.

It is therefore pleasant to tell you that The Haibun Journal is out. It’s a print publication from Ireland and much more relaxing to read than a web page. Of course, with postage costing a small fortune from the Republic of Ireland, it’s a lot more expensive than a web page, but you can’t have everything. I’m on page 59. Unfortunately I can’t provide a link, and it’s not really etiquette to reproduce haibun so soon after publication, so you’ll have to wait a bit.

I am in the magazine with three people who, in their editorial capacities, have recently rejected work from me. I can’t help feeling that there’s an element of irony in this.

And with that thought, I’m off. I clearly have to do more reading in my quest for the perfect haibun.

Update: This currently leaves me with 4 acceptances, six rejections and two still waiting – not as good as it was, but it could be a lot worse. Last year was five from eight and the year before that was about four from eight, but I didn’t keep a proper record. 

Haibun Accepted – Drifting Sands

One of my accepted haibun has just been published. You can find it here – as usual you need to scroll down to the name Simon Wilson. If the author’s bio is still there, don’t believe a word of it as it refers to Simon Hanson – he is more erudite, more interesting and, I have to confess, better looking. I’m quite happy with the substitution but if he ever visits this blog, sees that I write limericks, live a dull suburban life and look like I sleep in the woods, he may not be impressed.

The other haibun are all worth reading, though I must admit to being mystified by some of them. That’s why the writing of haibun is such an interesting area. There are several that I read and think “I could have written that!” but I didn’t. Sometimes that’s because I just didn’t connect something I’d seen to the possibility of a haibun, and other times it’s because I couldn’t make the subject work. I still have a lot to learn.

Some of them, as I say mystify me. I have a few things to do this afternoon, but this evening I will re-read the magazine several times and let things sink in. Enlightenment may come. Or, if there is anything good on TV, I may abandon the deep reading and just accept that I’m a Philistine.

Just in case you didn’t click on the last link, here it is again.

In other poetic news I was turned down by another editor, but as they are young, dynamic and cutting edge it is hardly a surprise that I can’t produce what they want. I did have a note from another editor, suggesting changes, which I made. I haven’t heard back yet, which is a worry, last time this happened the rewrite was turned down, leaving me with both a feeling of rejection and a loss of integrity. I’ll pretty much alter anything to get published (I am such a needy egotist)  but when you alter it and still get turned down it’s a double blow.

 

 

Talent, Resilence & Patience

There are three things you need for success in life, whether you are talking about writing (as I do) or anything else.

(By the way, I’m about to invent a new form of poem, so stay alert till the end.)

Despite the title, talent isn’t one of them. Research has shown that if you divide a group of children into two lots and praise one for their talent and the other for their hard work the results of one group will gradually decline and the other will increase.

The problem with praising someone for their talent is that they begin to believe that their talent will run out, where the other group starts to believe that the harder they work, the better they will become. This seems to be borne out by the actual results.

It is all laid out in a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed. Reading the review, as I did whilst looking for a link, it looks like there’s a lot more in there too – I really should read it again.

Talent can, to be honest, be replaced by practice and work rate. As long as you have a basic grasp of what makes a good bit of work in your field, you can work on improving the quality of your work. If you write a lot and submit enough pieces of work, success will follow. Once you have some success, more will follow. It’s like Roger Bannister and the four minute mile – once he broke the four minute barrier others followed. Barriers are mainly psychological, and once broken can be broken again and again.

Resilience, I have covered several times. Rejection is merely  the opinion of an editor at a certain point in time, and does not constitute a damning judgement on you or your work. If several editors share the same view it still isn’t that bad, just take it as a hint that you need to alter a few things.

As an aside – write haibun. I have always felt fortunate that a number of editors have taken the time to give me pointers about my haibun, which isn’t something that happens in a lot of fields. It seems to be a field where we are blessed with a group of fine editors. When I was a more traditional poet I rarely met with helpful comments – it was a case of yes or no, mostly no, and no clue as to what needed altering.

Stone on the Floor

I thought I’d put the poetic rocks half way down as it isn’t really a poetry post.

Finally, patience. No editor of a small poetry publication is in it hoping for fame and fortune. They are often overworked, under appreciated and blamed for the varied failings of authors. Some people even write sarcastic haibun about them. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

If you are a guest editor, as many are, the under-appreciation must be even greater.

However, it doesn’t stop me getting twitchy when they take a long time over their answer. I’m waiting for an answer from a magazine that says it may take 6-8 weeks to answer during busy periods. IT’s had the submission for 54 days now, which is just two days short of eight weeks, and I’m becoming twitchy. Another, with a target of two weeks, has had my submission for sixteen days. Two weeks is an excellent response time, so I’m not complaining, but I’d love an answer.

You just have to sit back and wait. It’s difficult not to be impatient, but just think, if it was you, would you appreciate impatience. I think not.I keep telling myself we are lucky to have people to do these jobs for us. If you left me in charge of a magazine it would soon degenerate into confusion and Limericks.

There was an old poet called Quercus,
whose efforts, often, would irk us.
He loved to declaim,
and would often exclaim
that he’d much rather work in a circus.

And that is my new form of poetry. You have prose and haiku, which are haibun, and prose and tanka, which are called tanka prose. Well this – prose followed by a Limerick, is a Limmerbun.  I add the double m to make sure it is pronounced correctly. Unlike the other two, a Limmerbun can be utter nonsense.

My Orange Parker Pen

I’m still hoping for some freebies from Parker. They are obviously not reading this blog.

Edited next day to tidy up a typo, remove a repetition and tinker with the Limerick.

Wednesday Night

This morning I wrote several pages of notes, two haibun and five haiku as I sat and waited in the car. That is two haibun and five haiku more than I have managed in the last two days. I’ve been trying to compose on the computer and it just doesn’t work. I can write articles and I can write blog posts, but I just can’t do poetry on the screen.

Give me a sheet of paper and a loaded fountain pen and sometimes, like today, it’s hard to stop me writing. Whether it’s any good or not is a different matter. A quick survey of recent correspondence with editors seems to indicate that opinion is divided.

Ten submissions in the last two months.

One lost in cyberspace.

Three accepted.

Two rejected (one with amazing alacrity).

Four pending.

At that point I decided I should write a poetry post every day, as well as my normal rambling diatribe against modern life. I’m writing enough, so the words wouldn’t be a problem, and may be it’s my chance to grasp a little of the elusive fame that sometimes gathers round a poet.

Tonight, as I sat down to write, i realised that I can’t bring myself to do it.  It’s alright for people who have won prizes or written books, but for someone like me with a patchy publication history it still seems self-indulgent. I don’t want to seem critical of other bloggers, but there’s quite a lot of poetry out there that could do with tightening up. Mine certainly does, so until I reach a higher level I’m going to refrain from self-publishing.

Tonight I finalised a couple of haibun. They have been hanging round for several months and I decided it was time to finish them or put them in the file of fragments. With that in mind, I found things falling into place.

Sometimes it does that, though a poem is never really finished. I can always look back at one and think of a change to make (change, after all is easy, as I often say, it’s improvement that is difficult).

For the moment then, I will confine myself to writing the odd post about poetry, but won’t put any actual poetry in them.

I need to get on now, as I have to write a few more haiku. I’m embarking on the Buson One Hundred again – ten haiku a day for 100 days. Last time I concentrated on fluency and deactivating my internal editor. This time I’m going to try to write something useful.

A hundred days from now is, I think 17th December. It’s not the most inspiring time of year, but I may as well do it while the enthusiasm takes me or I may end up putting it off for another year.

My Orange Parker Pen

As a warning, and to see if you really read to the end, if you see the picture of stones as the featured image it means it’s a poetry post. This gives you a sporting chance to avoid it.

The stones were in the car park at Aldeburgh last time we visited. Despite being just yards from the beach I suspect that the pink granite chippings indicate it has been shipped in from miles away (probably Aberdeen or thereabouts) to surface a car park that is just a yard away from, a massive shingle beach. The round stone, though, probably is from the beach.

 

 

Thoughts on writing

I missed my  deadline last night, just fell asleep in front of the TV as I drank a cup of tea and woke up minutes after midnight. I loaded the photos, posted, and found that although I was annoyed at missing the cut, it didn’t really matter.

I might be finding it hard to cut down on blogging, but I am, at least, managing to keep up the writing challenge I have set myself. One haibun essay, ten haiku and a poem a day. I did try writing a longer blog post on this subject but it quickly became dull, as mentioned here, so it remains in draft. After the 100 Day Challenge I’m only thinking of doing this for a month. A hundred days was gruelling.

The general idea is that I will use the practice challenge to gain more fluidity in writing and to build up ideas. If anything good comes out of it that will be a bonus.The haibun essays are generally usable, and some of the haiku aren’t too bad but the poems are mainly rubbish. With practice this may change.

I seem to remember from rugby training that it’s important to practice doing things perfectly, but with writing it’s slightly different as part of this is about overcoming the internal editor. There are a lot of ways to switch the internal editor off, and many posts. The one I’ve linked to there was at the top and was as good as any.

The best way I have found of switching of the internal editor is to write and keep writing, Don’t go back unless you spot a typo, and if you miss it don’y go back just because there’s a red squiggle in the text. You can do that later. I’ve just been back and fixed five typos in that paragraph. I’m not very accurate, but the inaccuracy doesn’t really affect the sense of the words.

I’ve often thought of writing a post and not sorting the typos. There are always some I miss anyway (I just re-read a post from four years ago and found a “their” where there should have been a “there”). I’m sure if I did that most of you would be able to read it OK. I’m told that as long as you have the first and last letters in place the brain will mostly sort out the rest.

Another thing I find is that the writing equipment affects the fluency of my writing. For haibun and poetry fountain pen is better than biro. Both are better than word processor.

Strangely, I can blog directly from the key board. In fact that’s the easiest way. Same with articles. It must be the way my brain works. Or doesn’t work.

A big stumbling block with my writing is the copying from longhand onto the computer. I really do not enjoy that bit, even though it isn’t really that onerous. It’s a few poems, not chunks of text. It’s not like actually doing any work.

What Can I Write About Today?

I have a  number of thoughts in the pipeline but they still need a bit of work.

However, Derrick and Tootlepedal have both fallen into my trap and asked for more details of what I turned up when I searched myself on Google. They both come up with their blogs when you Google them. I don’t, because I started the blog for the Quercus Community group and, eventually, I became Quercus.

I can now provide details without looking like a blatant self-publicist or an egomaniac.

My real name is Simon Wilson, but both names are so common that if you Google me I don’t get a look in. There are just so many notable people with my name that I’m frozen out, which is slightly annoying as I’ve had for longer than  most of them.

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Trees at day’s end

Anyway, here are the links to me.

Here, here, here, here and here. And here. There were more than I thought.

There’s also a link to one of my blog posts, but though I’ve talked of haibun on the blog several times, and even published a couple, Google doesn’t seem to pick them up. The blog post has a link to a haiku that wasn’t picked up by Google.

There is also a book review  for a book of haibun and other short poems by Xenia Tran, better known on WordPress as Whippet Wisdom. It’s not much of a review but if Goggle can be bothered to note it, it would be rude not to share the link.

According to the blog, I had nine acceptances, but could only find six by using Google. I can’t look them up by name because I’ve forgotten what they were. Somewhere I have a display book with them all in, but I haven’t seen that for a while now I come to think about it.

It’s not an ego thing – I don’t feel the need to print it all out and make a book of it. I just do it because when  you get a rejection it’s easy to take the book off the shelf and remind yourself that you have been a success and will be again. Well, it’s easy to take the book off the shelf if you can remember which shelf.

One rejection, or even several in a row, only means you’re in a temporary dip.

Form, as any coach will tell you, is temporary, but class will last for ever.

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A Figure in the Fog