Category Archives: poetry

Day 140

I’ve just been looking at a recent haibun, which I had thought I might reprint it in the blog. When I looked at it I found that, despite it being accepted and published, and despite my various edits and improvements before submission, it still has faults. It’s strange how that happens. There are at least two corrections needed in the space of 200 words. I suppose this will always be the problem with written work. It seemed finished when I submitted it, but the faults are clear and jarring.

Looking at it with fresh eyes shows more clearly what an editor may see when looking at my work. They aren’t even complicated faults – one being a fault with rhythm and one being a repeated word.

The piece I have used, could be better, and I have had a couple of thoughts for improvement, but nothing leaps out at me immediately. I’m now wondering about the idea of leaving everything for an extra three months before submitting it.

 

Quiet Corner

As a child, I attended a village school where the playground shared a wall with the churchyard. On one side of the wall we played and shouted. On the other, a line of small mossy memorials marked the graves of babies. Having grown up knowing that I had a sister who had died before I was born, I accepted, as did most people, that babies died. Years later, staring in wonder at my firstborn, I would think about those stones again, the tiny bodies that they covered, and from a new perspective, the parents.

snail shells
the song thrush uses gravestones
for an anvil

First Published Blithe Spirit February 2022

Day 118

I picked twelve empty stalks from the Spanish poppies today – the season’s total so far. There are five more in bloom today and they seem to have lasted better than most of the blooms do. I think one or two must have lasted two days now. late last summer we were lucky if they lasted six hours. I must monitor that this year and see if they follow the same pattern.

The Welsh poppy is looking good, and has a number of buds ready to take over the job of flowering. I’m not sure how long they last, but have always thought of them as quite tough. Again, I will have a chance to observe. I must make sure I end the season with enough seeds to ensure it spreads.

Meanwhile, having resisted sarcasm yesterday, I couldn’t hold it back this afternoon on the shop. There was an incident earlier in the week where one of my co-workers was, I thought, rather wasteful with some packaging. Well, today he excelled himself. Twelve items, twelve plastic sleeves. Then a board backed envelope and then two pieces of card. I maintained silence. I am, after all, just a cog in the machine. Then the printer started. He was printing three sheets of paper with screenshots of the goods he was packing. He could simply have put Banknotes (12) on a compliments slip but that wouldn’t have been wasteful enough for him.

“Why,” I asked, “don’t you just nuke a forest while you’re at it?”

He took offence at this.

My penultimate news is that my vaccination seems to have passed without incident. I had a slightly sore arm last night and woke up at about 6am this morning when I rolled over on it. It’s still slightly sore if I touch it, but, as I used to tell the kids when they did such things – don’t touch it.

Finally, cattails is out. I am on pages 83, 86, 118, 170, 173, 174. The last one is just a repeat of 170, which is the Editor’s Choice in the tanka prose section. Just thought I’d mention that as I slip from the page.

 

Day 104

I fell asleep in front of TV. The fire was on and the chair was comfortable. What more can I say?

I had three non-acceptances yesterday – one from a magazine and two from a competition. After doing well in competition last year I had hopes again for this year, and my entries were, I thought, better than last year. The winning entries, unfortunately for me, were also better, and far better than mine. Such is life. The magazine rejection was not unexpected.

That leaves me at nine acceptances and three rejections for the year, which is still satisfactory. Even better, I have a number of poems which are now free for resubmission to other places – this is my writing system and it is good to get it back into operation. After the double illness last year the system stopped, as I lost the continuity. It’s good to have some material in reserve again.

Beach Huts – Southwold

I think I’ve probably covered this before, but a lot of my acceptances have had several rejections before they succeed. Many of the successes, to be fair, are very different from their original form – forged in the heat of rejection, if you like.

Inevitably they become shorter and often assume the form of a short prose piece followed by a haiku. I don’t remember the proper Japanese term, but it has developed over the years, even over the few years I have been writing them seriously, and is almost the standard form.

I find it a bit dull, when there are some many other structures, but that’s just how it is. Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to be published in an American magazine unless you adhere to this form, and to several other fashionable ideas. What were guidelines a few years ago, are almost rules now.

On Dunwich beach

Of course, the older rambling prose interspersed with multiple haiku can be pretty dull too. They used to be known as “pearls from mudbanks” haibun – flashes of brilliance concealed in a heap of words. I’ve read a few of them this month too, and they can be great, but often aren’t. That was the style I used to write fifteen years ago. None of them were published. After a twelve year rest I came back ith shorter haibun. I’m now trying to make them longer.

And thus we come to a crossroads. Do I alter my writing style to fit fashion, or do I carry on doing what seems right and wait for fashion to change?

I have ambition to improve, and write better, but no particular inclination towards fame and fortune, so i can afford to wait. After all, as I’ve said before, I write because I enjoy it and only submit to magazines because it’s a form of quality control. It’s nice to know that I’m writing to an acceptable standard, but I try to take a balanced view of rejection. A couple of years ago I used to compose acerbic replies to editors in my head. These days I just shrug and edit.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Day 100

I know there’s nothing mystical about the number 100, but it seems like a good  day to have a serious review of my titling practice. It feels like a growing panic is engulfing me as I see the days fall away, and though it’s undoubtedly quicker and easier, it also feels like I’m leaving the blog unfinished. On the other hand, when I write titles by number it hides the fact that some days I just can’t be bothered, wher5eas titles don’t hide it so well. By tomorrow I will have reached a conclusion. The conclusion could be that I carry on numbering, or that I start using titles again. Or simply that I can’t be bothered to make a decision. Watch this space . . .

Another proper step in my poetic progress has been taken. Nothing major, so don’t expect too much. It’s just that so many of my poems are just marking time – same sort of poem, same magazines, more of the same . . .

Last month I submitted some tanka to an Australian magazine called Eucalypt. It’s a well known magazine, which specialises in tanka. I’ve never submitted to it before, and I’ve never sent tanka to a specialiost6 tanka magazine before. Result – an acceptance.

Second result – a feeling that I have advanced a little further along the road to getting better. I know it’s not a very precise measure of either progress or my targets, but it does feel like progress, all the same. Of course, I’m now left wondering what I need to do next to feel more like a serious poet. In the 1950s I could just have worn a beret, but these days it’s not so easy to look distinctively poetic.

Day 94

Failed Haiku is out. Actually it’s been out a few days but I only just got round to looking at it. I have three senryu on page 84. I just looked and realised you can just type 84 in the box at the beginning. There really is a lot I never knew about computers.

The figures for this year are Submissions 14, Acceptances 6, Pending 5, Refused 2, Lost in Cyberspace 1.I’m reasonably happy with that, though it has to be said that I have let three or four chances to submit slide by, and they are invariably the places I find harder to get into. This tends to make the figures favour me.

I really have to get back to the target of 100 submissions and get well out of my comfort zone. It makes me try harder and and puts rejection into context. However, I’ve covered this before.

The rest of the day followed well worn channels. We generally don’t get many calls or customers on a Monday, as we always used to be closed. That was a tradition from the days when the owner did coin fairs on Sundays. I generally worked on Mondays when i was doing fairs because I had regular markets to do or a shop to open (we were opposite an auctioneer that held Monday sales, so we had plenty of trade customers on a Monday).

My slow days were Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I used to go to auctions or other shops in mid-week. Unfortunately so did a lot of other shops so I ended up visiting a lot of closed shops. It was, I suppose, one of the many flaws in my business plan.

Silver Britannia coin

Day 81

Today I sorted a collection of tickets. Some of them are bus tickets and some relate to things like toll bridges and ferries, but many of them are considerably less interesting than that. Fortunately I have the day off tomorrow and will do some exercises to raise my enthusiasm levels.

Some of them have adverts on the back, and at least one of the adverts refers to rationing, so I’m guessing they go back to the 1940s in some cases.

After looking at all the pictures from previous years, I am starting to feel restless and would like to get out more. All I need to do is find a place that is crammed with interest, devoid of people, and accessible to a man with bad knees and a stick. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I’m hoping to get an early start tomorrow and get a parking space close to phlebotomy for my overdue blood tests. After that I have a couple of errands to do and plan on spending the rest of the day getting to grips with some writing.

It’s all about practice. The more you write, the better you get. When I decided to start writing poetry again, about the time I started writing this blog, it must have taken a good two years before I started writing to an acceptable level.

This time, six months after being ill, I am struggling again. The quality is OK now, but the quantity isn’t there yet and I’m looking at four deadlines at the end of the week and only enough material for one submission.

That’s why I need a major effort tomorrow – lots of editing to do.

Day 77

Tonight, I noticed that 2022 in Roman numerals, as used in film credits, is MMXXII. In 200 years it will be MMCCXXII. OK, it’s not as easy to read as 2022 and 2222, but it’s more decorative and more fun.

I moved on to discuss date writing conventions of the world. I searched for “dating conventions” but soon realised that it wasn’t the information that I wanted, It seems that the Americans do it differently to the rest of the world because they preserved the original format used by the British before 1776.

This has been bugging me recently because a journal I submit to has started instructing me to use the American system in my submissions. This is one of a number of instructions editors of various journals have been issuing recently. Strangely, they also say they favour the Chicago Manual of Style for certain things – though the date isn’t one. The Chicago Manual of Style does not recommend the American date format as it is felt to be ambiguous.

This is irritating, because I don’t like micromanagement, but that’s how it is. If I want to be published I submit in the style requested. However, things have now moved on. They are going to have a themed issue. I don’t like themed issues. I write for enjoyment, not because I want to engage in a glorified writing exercise. It’s nice to have editorial input, but I don’t crave publication like a  drug.I’m going to sit this one out.

Even if I did decide to submit, it’s unlikely that anything I write on the subject of war and human stupidity will be as good as this, so I’ll stick to writing about birds and Julia and traffic jams.

Day 67

I heard back from one of my other submissions. Another acceptance. Too easy. Something bad must happen soon. I will become complacent, or editors will realise that deep down I am not worth publishing . . .

Success can be  a troublesome thing to deal with. My previous four attempts were turned down on the basis of obscurity, being late and not being good enough (twice). In some ways I find that easier to deal with, which is really the wrong way round. You often see articles about how to cope with rejection, but nothing about how to cope with success. Maybe I should write that as an article – it would be more original than another one about coping with rejection.

That’s a question – is it possible to be “more original” or is it like pregnancy and uniqueness? You can’t be “more pregnant” or “slightly pregnant”. You can, according to some people be “nearly unique” , “almost unique” and various other types of unique, but they all really mean “not unique” and are a misuse of the word. I saw one example on eBay that was properly used but hilarious in context.

Someone ha listed an item as “rare”. This, in eBay speak just means “I have not seen one before”. Five sales down the page was another of these rare items, which tends to suggest they may not be rare. The second one, which made me laugh, was described as “unique”. Clearly it wasn’t.

And that’s what made me think about my statement above – can you be “more original”?, Or is it simply “original” or “not original”? Have I fallen into sloppy writing habits?

What do you think?

Stone on the Floor

 

 

 

Day 63

Not sure what to say today. I really ought to write for posterity, with my thoughts about the current situation, but, if I’m honest, I don’t have many. Madmen will be mad, nations will follow like sheep and that’s all there is to it. We know this because we’ve done it in the UK and USA too. Even if this is all sorted out there are still plenty of problems scattered round the world and plenty of people willing to make things worse.

So I’m going to ignore what is happening. Why worry about something I can’t change? I have, as I keep saying, declining brain power, and I don’t intend wasting any of the remaining capacity in worrying.

Instead, I will write. Writing keeps me sane. I was about to say that you never hear about a poet invading his neighbours, but the words Gabriele D’Annunzio came to mind. Let’s just say that you rarely hear about a poet invading his neighbours.

So, having let posterity know why I won’t be writing about serious matters I will now turn to poetry. The year 2022 has seen me struggle to write. I have made 11 submissions, mostly using old material. I had to go back into the archives and polish up some old work. Some of it has been rejected before, and some didn’t work at the time. After a bit of effort, I have knocked some of it into shape and it is doing OK so far. Of course, that still leaves the problem that I don’t have enough for this month’s submissions.

Of the eleven submissions, one was lost in cyberspace and three were rejected. Four have been accepted and I am waiting for answers on the other three.

And that, I’m afraid, is what I want to write about. I feel I ought to be more sensitive and empathetic, but I’m not.

 

Day 54

I’ve been looking at lists of 10, 30 and 50 Greatest Poets and Greatest Poems to give myself some perspective on yesterday’s surprise about people not recognising the name Adlestrop. Robert Frost ranks highly in most lists. Edward Thomas, his friend, does not. Frost after surviving the trip back to America in 1915, which was not a foregone conclusion in that year, as the Lusitania shows, developed a poetic career and eventually died at the age of 88. Thomas enlisted in 1915, prompted by Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, and was killed in 1917. It seems to me that poetic reputations are often developed by such quirks of history, rather than by the quality of the poetry. Death, and its timing has a lot to do with reputations. Thomas died too soon, Byron died at about the right time, at which point he became a legend rather than a mere poet. I could name several poets who died too late, but that would be mean-spirited.

What I can tell you about some of the lists is that I haven’t heard of many of the poets on one of the lists, which, as far as I can tell, was chosen on political rather than poetic grounds. Such is life when you start making lists. Any list you make is bound to be biased, though you only notice when it is biased in a way you don’t like.

The average list is composed of classic white men with a few Indians, Japanese and female poets thrown in jut to show how well read the lister is. I’m always left with a feeling that these lists reveal just how little I really know about poetry and how any list I write on this subject should not be titled “100 Best Poets” but “100 best Poets in the Opinion of a man of limited reading and ingrained prejudices”. This would be more accurate.

It’s the same with many articles in the news, in the UK they should all be qualified with the words “written by a young and overconfident Oxbridge graduate”.

And that is the opinion of the blogger Quercus Community (a miserable old git who is not fond of modern life and young people).