Category Archives: poetry

A Few Bits of News

The arthritis drugs aren’t working as well as they have been and my fingers are starting to play up. I wonder if it’s the time of year as they did this to me last year. As the world slipped into lockdown my major concern was getting dressed with half my fingers out of action. It’s staring again and this morning I had to use a hot water bottle to get my hands working when I got to the shop.

he anticoagulants aren’t working well either, as shown by my recent test results. They are wandering about all over the place and have become rather too high recently – meaning I’m now in the zone where I could have  a problem with bleeding. Not so bad for a shop assistant but when I was gardening this would have been a nightmare. I used to bleed badly after pruning pyracantha at the best of times. It would probably look like a horror film if I did it these days. I’ve had a leter from the hospital about this – ity seems they are seeing more erratic results in lockdown, and that levels generally seem to go up. That’s a relief, as I have been trying to work out why it was happening. Seems I’m just part of a lockdown phenomenon.

Do you remember that I was short-listed by Acumen magazine a few weeks ago? I prophesied that I would fail to make it from shortlist and my prophesy turns out to have been wrong. I have two poems accepted for the next issue and have just checked the proofs. I’ve never been accepted by a magazine that has proofs. I must definitely be going up in the world.

I think I’m going to have to stop writing about my poetry writing because things are going too well at the moment and it’s getting a bit close to showing off. I’ll wait for some bad news before writing about it again. To be fair, it should only be a week or two before I get cut down to size.

Jentacular Spectacular

I imagine that all proper writers are currently walking in the countryside, writing , or at work wishing they were doing either of the other two. I am having my customary Monday off, and sm wasting my time playing Nine Men’s Morris on the computer.  However, I have taken a grip of myself and am now writing after squandering most of the last 100 minutes on games and emails and checking eBay.

The post has just arrived so I will pick that up and on the way back I might as well put the kettle on. I’m not expecting anything good in the post so it will only be bills and circulars, but any displacement activity is welcome to a keyboard loafer.

On the way to the kettle I noticed we had a single wrap left in the bag. We have been keeping a few in as they stop us running out of breadlike substances for packed lunches. One isn’t much use though, They make a very good substitute for an oatcake so I thought while I was waiting for the kettle to boil I might as well stick a bit of bacon in this one and thus clean up the kitchen a bit. I added mushrooms, because we have quite a lot of them too, four small tomatoes which are going a bit soft, and a spring onion, cut in half and then sliced lengthways. When cooked and wrapped it did indeed make a passable substitute for an oatcake. I now feel much more able to face the day and do some work.

My Orange Parker Pen

The post wasn’t quite useless, as it contains my copy of Poetry Review. The outer, which looks like it is compostable, though it doesn’t actually say so, contains the magazine plus a number of extras – a copy of Poetry News, which I normally skim and recycle, a flyer for the Winchester poetry Prize, which I won’t enter, a Bloodaxe Catalogue and the Winners’ Anthology for the National poetry Competition. I’ll read the Bloodaxe catalogue and dream about being in it, and I’ll read the anthology so that I can feel affronted that, once again, I didn’t even make the long-list. However, after my recent success in the BHS competition I am content.

Can anyone answer a grammar question while you are here? Is it a Winners’ Anthology, as it doesn’t belong to them, or is it a Winners Anthology because its’s an anthology by more than one winner?

You can read the winners here.

And, of course, there is Poetry Review. It’s a serious magazine full of serious poems. It contains essays, translations and reviews. I confess that I don’t always read it all. I’m going to read some of it before lunch, then I’m going to write Limericks. Once my mind is receptive to lightness again I have haiku to write, as I am suffering a haiku deficiency and my haikuless haibun collection is crying out for closure.

 

 

Ups and Downs

It was another day of manic activity as we kept getting orders from the new sales initiative. I quite like the active days, though it would be nice to have a little variation in pace.

The day started off with my second failed blood test in two weeks. I am consistently coming in too high and actually climbing as they seek to adjust the dose downwards. I’m not sure why this is happening but I suspect it might b because I started making an effort to do things properly. Instead of drifting on and forgetting to take my pills or taking them late, I am establishing a routine and I wonder if this means I have effectively increased the does without meaning too. I’m not taking supplements, I haven’t changed any medication and I haven’t ben eating huge amounts of green vegetables, which can all affect it. Whatever has caused it, the slow reduction by one tablet a week, as they have done this week, isn’t going to see it corrected any time soon.

Yesterday, I had an email headed “Congratulations”. Normally I’m wary of them because they usually contain details of how lucky I am to have been chosen to launder the estate of a deceased African politician. Presumably, the way things have been going, they will soon be inviting me to launder the estates of corrupt Tory supporters who have amassed illicit millions by making PPE for the NHS.

This one was from the British Haiku Society. I entered their annual competition and the results are out. According to the results there were 587 haiku, 164 tanka and 71 haibun entered. I am one of the top five haibun. I wasn’t 1st or 2nd but I did get an Honourable Mention which means I have a certificate and a free book.

The strange thing is that  the one I did all the work on made no impact but the successful one was one which had only been returned by an editor the week before. I tweaked it a bit, in line with his comments, and sent it off to the competition. It just goes to show, as I have said before, that I am not a good judge of my own writing.

 

Twelve Ideas

Lat night I wrote a list of ideas when I was looking for subjects to write about.  I ended up with eleven, which grew to twelve when I decided to write about writing a list of things to write about. Ideas, as I may have said before, are not difficult to come by. I could probably have thought of 20-30 more, but I find that having too many ideas is not always a good thing. If you have too many the quality tails off and you never get to the end of the list.

I meant to start using them last night but by the time I’d written the blog post and edited work in progress, I ran out of energy. This morning I started with some reading and commenting and have just looked at the list un front of me.

Twelve ideas became ten because two are undecipherable. That became  eleven when I remembered what one of them was, and twelve when I decided that writing about bad handwriting could replace the idea I couldn’t read.

As I said, I don’t lack ideas, just the ability to turn ideas into results. I think I may have told you we once had a meeting on the farm and someone said, with a perfectly straight face, “My talent is having ideas, rather than doing things. If you want any ideas I have plenty of them.”

If you’ve ever been on a committee I think you probably agree that talk and ideas are never in short supply. One person putting one idea into action, that’s what’s in short supply.

On that subject, what happens next? Well, I have twelve ideas. You are reading the result of one of them. Four of them have moved on to be the prose sections of haibun. Three of them now have lines of poetry attached. Two of them will become blog posts. One, I have not developed, but will do. The twelfth, which was going to be about the trials of being a prince with a trophy wife and a massive trust fun, doesn’t really appeal. I am going to cross that one off. Sometimes you realise you just don’t want to develop an idea.

The next stage is typing the haibun prose and the first drafts of the blog posts. Some results will be good, some not so good. It’s all a process of natural wastage. Eventually twelve ideas will be turned into a few finished pieces and the rest will be used as spare parts for other things.

 

Haibun – Another Place, Another Time

This is a haibun that was published in The Haibun Journal. It’s a print journal and I wasn’t able to link to the haibun at the time as they don’t appear online. I thought its time had come, because  the Six Nations Championship is underway so the subject of rugby seemed appropriate. It’s also a bit of light relief at a time of lockdown and news about irrelevant royalty.

It is set in Mrs Botham’s Tearoom in Whitby. They don’t generally have a harpist, but they did on this particular visit.  I enjoyed eating crab sandwiches whilst listening to harp music. In my mind the haibun is dedicated to the two ex-players in the tearoom who both smiled and whispered to their long-suffering wives when the tune started.

I learned a lesson in persistence for this submission. I submitted three haibun and had one accepted, which is general practice as most magazines only take one haibun per writer per issue. Sometimes, of course, they don’t take any.

One of the rejects was sent out straight away with a quick spruce up, I agreed to a couple of edits and it appeared in an online journal shortly after. The other was sent out three more times before being accepted last week..

I think this is the only time I’ve managed to place an entire submission of three – normally I give up if one keeps coming back.

Botham’s Whitby

Another place, another time

We climb the stairs to the tearoom above the cake shop. The presence of a stairlift reveals much about the age of the clientele.

In the subdued lighting, we move back to a time of elegance. People pour their tea from plated teapots emblazoned with the teashop name. Hot water jugs are de rigeur. In the corner a harpist plays.

The tune she was playing was, my wife said, with a note of warning in her voice, called The Ash Grove, but I remembered it better as a traditional rugby song about the Mayor of Bayswater. He had, as I recall, a pretty daughter. Judging by several strained expressions around the place, I was not the only one. It was like a trumpet call to an old warhorse.

wives’ fixed smiles
the husbands remember
past glories

First published in The Haibun Journal October 2020

 

Botham’s, Skinner Street, Whitby

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Stairlift at Botham’s tearoom, Whitby

Lightening Bolts, Books and Bragging

Grocery day today. We had two phone calls, each giving us an updated delivery time (by “updated” I mean “later” of course).

Meanwhile, It is cold and wet and windy. The only good thing about the weather is that it isn’t as windy as yesterday and that there was only one clap of thunder. It was clearly trying out all sorts of things and decided that a thunderstorm was surplus to requirements.

I received a book through the post yesterday – Getting Published in UK Poetry Magazines by Robin Houghton. It cost £6 fo a 34 page pamphlet of information I already had, There were a couple of snippets I didn’t know, but much of he information is available online. The main thing I got was a lesson in checking how big something is before ordering it. It won’t break me, and if it encourages a fellow poet I suppose it’s worth the money.

One thing I did notice was mention of  humblebragging. It was not only a new word, but a new concept. It seems similar to name-dropping.The author seems very much against it, but doesn’t really explain it that well. I had to look it up. I may have appeared to be guilty of this in the past but I assure you, I don’t mean to.

When I say I fear being uncovered as a fraud who got lucky I am telling the truth. It’s gradually sinking in that I am probably OK as a writer, as I’m getting regular acceptances and editors talk to me these days. Well, some of them do. However, I do still worry that one day it will all come to an end.

And, to end (with a masterful humblebrag) my target of 100 rejections has moved further away as I had two acceptances yesterday.I will now look suitably modest and sidle away as the smug alarm starts to sound…

 

 

My Favourite Day

It i now just after midday and it is probably time to take stock.

I delivered Julia to work this morning. Traffic was heavier than usual, which was probably due to the return to school, though it could just be that Monday is usually busier in general. I have no way of measuring, but the queue in a couple of places was a little longer than usual.  It might just appear heavier because I was expecting it to be. I really ought to devise an accurate system of measurement.

On the way back I went to Lidl as we need bread and I like their bakery. I’ve been avoiding it lately, but you have to go out at some time.

As usual, I observed some selfish parking. A single man in a Range Rover parked in a parent and child space (we didn’t have them in my day, we just had to learn how to control children and shopping at the same time!) I don’t see why anyone needs a Range Rover if they live in town. I don’t see why Range Rover owners can’t walk a few yards extra. And I definitely don’t know why he felt it necessary to park at an angle so that a corner of his vehicle jutted into the corner of the parking spot next to him. Somehow, I always asu8me that if you have the money to buy a big car and fuel it that you should know how to drive. I am clearly wrong.

Again, in the absence of a proper measuring system I can’t say this was the worst parking I’ve ever seen. How does it compare, for instance, with a small car parking across two disabled spaces whilst playing loud music? So many variables.

I bought the usual selection – sandwich baguettes, chocolate brownies, ham offcuts for sandwiches and mini cucumbers, which Julia likes with her sandwiches. She actually ordered some plants yesterday to grow her own this summer.

I then sat down to write. I finalised a selection of haiku, which needed to be sent before the 15th. That is now done. I’ve submitted to that magazine before and expect I will be making a contribution to my target of 100 rejections quite soon.

After that I settled down to some “ordinary” poetry. At the moment I’m writing by setting ideas down and adding to them. When they are about the right length I check I have everything I need – theme, detail, ambiguity- then I start pruning and refining. I have two or three on the go, in various stages of completion and it’s feeling good. I’m pinning a lot of hope on my ordinary poetry to bring in the 100 rejections.

I then twiddled around with ome tidying of folders, made a cup of tea, browsed the internet and skimmed a book that arrived last week. I answered a phone call from a very nice lady who wanted to help me extend the warranty of my washing machine. Regular readers, who know we use the launderette for washing, will realise she was unlikely to succeed, and thi proved to be the case.

That’s it for now. I’m going to make lunch, using a liquidised vegetable stew and I will then start rounding up some haiku for another submission. If I get that done, I will have a go at refining some haibun and writing a couple of new prose sections.

After I pick Julia up I will have come full circle and that brings us back to the chocolate brownies. I will miss my Mondays when I have to go back to full-time work.

Orange Parker Pen

 

Tests and Targets

Sunday morning – 10.31 am – and Julia’s phone just bleeped. Twenty four hours after posting th samples she is, once again, negative.  This good news, as I have had a bit of a dry cough at times this week and was worried about it being the dreaded covid cough. However, if she is negative I probably am, so all is good.

She just mentioned, as I chatted to her whilst typing, that my appetite has seemed unaffected by anything this week, which is another sign I am probably not infected. I’m not sure I liked her tone…

After reading the article I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been seriously thinking about how much writing I would have to do to manage 100 submissions a year. In the last six months I have managed 26 submissions. It looks like I could mange 52 submissions a year which is a handy one a week. By doubling my output I will hit the 100. Simple.

Unfortunately for the target of 100 rejections I have had 11 acceptances. Even if the quality of my work deteriorates badly with the increased output I’m likely to have to write even more to hit target.

At that point I have to consider the question of markets. There are some haiku/haibun magazines I haven’t tried yet, for a variety of reasons. There are also some that will accept more submissions than I currently send. The more I think of it, the more I am starting to feel lazy because I don’t submit 100 pieces a year.

It just goes to show you should be careful what you browse on the internet, and, what you think about after reading it. Two days ago I was content, now I’m not so sure. This blog started as a way of getting me back into writing, and it seems to have done that.  I have moved on to other targets, and it seems to be going OK. I even have  a plan for the coming year.

Orange Parker Pen

The original plan was to get 24 haiku/senryu accepted, 18 haibun and three articles. The haibun figure is about what I am doing at the moment, as long as I write consistently instead of taking a few months off here and there. The haiku/senryu target is based on writing and submitting more – I’ve been a bit lazy there, but I need to sharpen up my skills to write better poems for the haibun. The articles? Well, I decided that I also need to sharpen up my skills in knowing more about  the forms I write and the way I do it. A target for articles seemed like a good way to make me focus.

Now. only a couple of months after setting those targets, I’m starting to question them. As the result of wandering into a random internet page, I’m thinking of more ambitious goals.

The word Icarus, is coming to mind. There are several poems about Icarus This is one of the less well known ones, but probably my favourite. However, where is the fun in not flying close to the sun?

And that’s about it. I can’t spend all day chatting on the blog when I have two submissions a week to make. I only have four planned for this month so I have to find four more and then I have to write them.

The pictures, as usual these days, have little bearing on the text.

Allium Flower

The Year Moves On

Today was another beautiful day, though somewhat marred by having to sit in the back room of the shop. Tomorrow, if it is similarly beautiful, I will probably spend indoors hiding from people. It is a very trying time but I don’t intend becoming ill just as we get in sight of a solution.

The birds are certainly playing their part – they were singing before dawn and wee still singing at dusk.

My Blood test results came back. I am hovering just within the permitted range – my reward is a three week rest before the next ritual puncturing. Julia posted her test kit today, so if things go as smoothly as last time we should have  a result tomorrow.

On the poetry front, things are going pretty much as you would expect. A set of haiku to one magazine were returned, as has become traditional. I’m not sure which one of us will break first. In fact I’m not sure if one of us will break before Death takes us. I don’t give up easily and she clearly doesn’t like my submissions.

Another one returned my attempts too, but it was a regular journal with a guest editor. I have  never managed to have anything accepted when they have a guest editor.

On a more positive note, Obsessed with Pipework had one of my poems this issue. They aren’t on-line so I can’t direct you to it.

The Haibun Journal has accepted a haibun for next month’s issue. Not online, so again there won’t be a link. I like the Haibun Journal – a well-produced old-fashioned sort of journal, which |I could imagine reading whilst wearing a smoking jacket in my Library.

To be fair, I like all journals that publish me, and quite a few that don’t.

The biggest news is that I’ve been shortlisted by Acumen.  They have  a two stage policy – Normally they turn me down and tell me competition is fierce, as they only publish about 1% of submissions. This time I’ve made it onto the list to be considered as part of the 1%. I probably won’t progress but it’s a step up from a simple rejection, and it’s actually more exciting than being published by a lot of other magazines.

For a week or two I can dream of publication in a prestigious magazine, but after that it will be down to earth with  a bang.

And on that note, it is time to go and drink tea in front of the Tv. It’s a hard life being a poet…

 

For a picture – snowdrops from 2018.

 

Haiku – Season’s End

Hot drink on a cold day

 

coffees outnumber
ice cream orders
—season’s end

 

First Published Presence 68 November 2020

My second published haiku. I admit I didn’t try too hard, but two years between the two was possibly a bit leisurely.  I wasn’t entirely idle between the two things, as I had  ten haibun and a magazine article published in that time. And, of course, several hundred blog posts.

It’s illustrated with a cup of tea because I don’t drink a lot of coffee. I could have used the word “tea” instead of “coffee” but it seems to be a better rhythm with coffee.

The teas are from the Middleport Pottery café in Stoke on Trent, where the Great Pottery Throwdown in filmed. Well, most of it. Some of the shots are from the Gladstone Pottery Museum which has more bottle kilns to show.