Category Archives: poetry

The Duckpond

Several of you have expressed an interest in seeing some of my haiku/haibun. I realise this is a sign of kindness rather than a burning desire to read self-edited poetry of variable quality, but I do appreciate it.

I’m afraid I’m not very forthcoming, because I tend to write for magazine publication and, occasionally, for competition. They generally don’t accept work that has already been seen, and as I never seem to have enough material that’s good enough to submit it makes it hard to find something to show.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation – I can’t show the best ones and I don’t want to show you the second quality ones.

As a compromise, if you follow this link to Wales Haiku Journal and scroll down to The Duckpond, you can read my latest haibun.  If you are a regular reader you may recognise the pond, and the trolley.

Part of the problem is the time they need to mature. I’m currently working on pieces that were written three or four months ago. My last attempt on the blog was written in haste and didn’t quite work.

I’m sure there is a way round it, and will apply myself to searching. Maybe I need a 100 Day Haibun Challenge…

Another 100 Day Challenge – Haiku

It’s Day 100 of the Haiku Challenge.

I now have over 1,000 haiku of indeterminate quality. Some of them aren’t haiku, some are senyru. Some are more like fragments, or notes. And many of them are merely bad.

Having taken all that into consideration, was it worth it?

Undoubtedly. I’ve learned a lot from the experience, including that in any 100 day challenge you are going to come to hate what you are doing. Whether this holds true for my new challenge remains to be seen.

I first came up with the idea from reading this this post whilst browsing the net for haiku-related posts. I then moved on to reading this article, which is a lot more ambitious.

My “rules”, garnered from the article, were simple. Ten haiku a day for 100 days, avoiding too much censorship and writing extra to catch up if I couldn’t manage ten one day. As the article admitted that experienced writers were only getting one good haiku out of ten or twenty attempts I felt justified in taking a laid back attitude.

So, what did I learn?

Well, I became more fluent in my writing and found ideas came more easily.

I became addicted to writing and couldn’t rest if I didn’t write at least ten a day. Apart from the days I needed a rest, because there were several days where I hated haiku so badly that I couldn’t write one. That did happen a couple of times, but I soon got over it after a day off.

I also ran out of nature several times. Despite becoming more observant and making better notes as time went on, I found I was struggling with enough nature observations to keep myself going. You don’t see much nature when you are just driving through town to work and back, and magpies and bare branches are simply not enough to feed a heavy haiku habit.

Towards the end of the time I noticed I was writing three line poems with the rhythms and vocabulary of haiku.

That last point is quite important. I started with a lot of long words and details which aren’t really needed in haiku. A three syllable word in a haiku, remember, is three thirteenths of the syllables needed for a modern haiku (seventeen is now considered old-fashioned). Three thirteenths of a sonnet is near enough three lines, so you can see how condensed a haiku is, and why you can’t waste a single syllable.

That was probably the most important thing I learned.

Now, it’s time to take Number Two Son to work.

Over the next few weeks I will do some rewriting and may show you a few poems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Haibun

I’m watching TV and typing on my laptop. I am thus able to blog, watch TV and develop a Repetitive Strain Injury at the same time.

Currently, I’m pondering the question of haibun. Having spent ages labouring over villanelles and sonnets, and often discarding the malformed results, it seems like cheating to call a haibun a poem. It is, after all, only a few lines of text and up to seventeen syllables of haiku. The main challenge isn’t the poetry, it’s the brevity.

You could probably write a blog post, add a haiku and call the whole thing a haibun. In fact, I know you can, because that’s what I’m about to do.

 

waking stiff

too old to doze in chairs

another sign

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Sharing Our Horizon

 

Sharing our Horizon: A Journey Through the Scottish Highlands with Two Adopted Whippets by [Tran, Xenia]

(Cover photo taken from Amazon)

Paperback: 84 pages

Publisher: Holistic Linguistics (30 Sept. 2018)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1916470424

ISBN-13: 978-1916470422

Paperback: £9.99    Kindle: £5.99

Written by Xenia Tran, who may be better known to users of WordPress as the author of Whippet Wisdom.

First, a disclaimer – my Kindle only does black and white so I can’t tell you what the pictures look like in colour. They are good, dynamic shots in monochrome, so I expect they will be as good or better in colour.

There are 59 poems in this book, which makes it a proper collection, with an identity and a life of its own. A lot of the books I’ve bought recently have been a bit sparse to say the least and have failed to pass this test.

My initial reaction on reading the book was that the haibun and longer poems were the best parts and the haiku were, surprisingly, trailing behind. I’ve re-read the book twice and revised my opinion slightly – I still think the haibun and the longer poems (up to 44 words) are the best of the book but the haiku are looking a lot better now.

I think this was probably a case of it being easy to overlook haiku when there are more substantial pieces to read, and when you are keen to read it to the end and see what it contains. A slower re-reading gives the haiku more chance to work on the reader. To be fair the real point is that I should read more slowly, rather than that the haiku are at fault.

So there you go, a good read and much better than the average offering. I’m looking forward to the next book now.

There is more information here if you want it.

Haiku Challenge – Day 79 – Just 3 Weeks Left!

I’ve been plugging away at it for 79 days now, and have written well over 800 haiku, spread between three notebooks – upstairs, downstairs and in the car. You can’t afford to waste inspiration, and I’ve often done the daily ten whilst waiting in the car for Julia.

As a result I swear my brain is getting bigger and I’m beginning to resemble the Mekon.

Image result for mekon

(Image purloined from http://www.dandare.org.uk)

Well, not in all respects, I’m not clean-shaven and I don’t sit in a levitating lifeboat. I will probably have to start eating fish to power all this extra grey matter.

In terms of enthusiasm I’ve moved from being happy with my newly developed facility for haiku writing, to being addicted, to hating them and back to happiness.

In terms of quality, I’m embarrassed to admit that 775 of the 800 I’ve written are not very good. On the other hand, the remaining 25 are better than anything I’d written before I started the challenge, so it has done some good.

There is an editor on one of the magazine websites who is very critical of people who write haiku in “industrial quantities”. That’s me he’s talking about. At one time I was depressed at the thought, but now I’m happy with it, as I have definitely improved despite my “industrial” approach.

It’s hurt at times but I think the learning has been good for me in the end. I got myself back into writing by buying a diary and writing something every day for a year (which I nearly accomplished) but the high intensity of ten a day for 100 days is a much more intense learning experience.

Of course, telling people about it to ensure it happened was a good idea, as I’d have given up weeks ago if it wasn’t for that.

I’d also make sure there was plenty of nature to see – 100 haiku featuring fallen or brown leaves can be a bit wearing. If I ever do this again I’ll choose a different time of year and do more walking.

The other thing I would suggest is that you should keep your haiku properly filed or indexed. I have 800 free range haiku and no prospect of ever getting them sorted.

That’s it for now – the next news on this will be in 21 days.

 

Good News and Loose Ends

I had some good news yesterday.

You may recall from a previous post that I’ve been worrying about various things. I’ve also noted a few loose ends – in the Bakewell post I said I’d explain why I was using the old camera, but I didn’t.

That’s easy – the socket on the new camera is getting a bit slack and it can be tricky  when downloading by plugging it directly into the computer. As the card reader on my laptop doesn’t work, and there is no card reader on my work computer I tried the old camera as I may start using it for work. Plug-in card readers always seem to fall apart so I have stopped buying them.

Another loose end – Number One Son and the cancelled trip to Innsbruck. Easy Jet are going to refund him for the flight and the Air BnB people have given him a 100% refund as they sympathised with his situation. That only leaves the flight home (Ryan Air) and the loss of the holiday but as he says – the flight home is a small price to pay and though he did miss the holiday he fitted in a day trip to Brighton and was amazed by the kindness of the Air BnB hosts, so it’s all good.

One thing I was worried about, after a couple of acceptances, was that I wouldn’t be able to live up to that standard again. As a result I’ve been messing around with haibun instead of finishing them, and feeling they weren’t good enough to send. I also missed the chance of a few submissions because I didn’t think I had anything good enough to send.

In some ways, having things accepted has been worse for my confidence than having things rejected.

Anyway, I finally got fed up with my pathetically defeatist attitude and sent three more submissions off on Christmas Eve. During the afternoon of Christmas Day I was surprised to see I had a reply, which seemed very quick, very dedicated and, let’s be honest, was bound to be a rejection because acceptances take longer than that.

At least I had the monkey off my back.

However, I was wrong and I’ve just had another acceptance. I’ve also been given advice. This is good, as editors are busy people and everyone agrees that getting feedback is a good sign.

As a result I’m feeling far too pleased with myself. I really need to learn how to cope with acceptance a little better. I also need to alter that haibun I wrote about editors.

I also need to review the advice I gave about people boasting in Christmas Letters as I now find I’m not quite sure of the boundary between reporting success and boasting.

A Haibun about Editors

Editors

In my mind’s eye I see them sitting in their turrets, pale creatures with staring eyes, their unkempt hair laced with cobwebs.

Muttering, they read my submissions and slash at them with their editing quills, using ink mixed from the blood of kittens and the bitter tears of disappointed authors.

The rejection stings, but it does no lasting harm. Ten minutes later the urge to write a witty but insulting riposte has gone and the feeling of worthless failure has faded. In my mind’s eye I now see someone much more respectable and less likely to be cruel to kittens.

We need editors and as I mellow I begin to feel grateful for their efforts in running magazines. 

I start work on another submission, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that if I was to send a gift-wrapped unicorn it would turn into a donkey under the scrutiny of editors.

 

editor’s email

opened with hope

read with dismay

 

I don’t generally publish my own poetry and I will, later, write about my thoughts on self-publication, but I thought I’d give it a shot this time as this one is unlikely to be accepted. I like haibun – they are like writing a normal blog post and adding three short lines of poetry. You can add more, but I didn’t want to spoil you.

(Sorry about the double spacing in the haiku – I don’t seem to be able to get rid of it. Come to think of it, it’s actually a senryu not a haiku. Ah well…)