Category Archives: tanka

Yet Another Acceptance and a Lot of Fruit

Sunday’s Second Post.

The good thing about one of the acceptances I had earlier in the month was the nine rejections. I think I’ve explained before that editors generally want a batch of ten tanka, and normally only select one. I have had more selected sometimes, but it always seems greedy when you are taking a space someone else would be happy to use. The nine returns were recycled – one being removed. Two were then added to the batch, which was sent out and, shortly after, provided the next acceptance (which was one of the ones that had been rejected by the previous editor). The second editor also named several they would like to see again in a few months if they are still available. They will be, because it seems  good thing to do. That means I have to wite four more to add to the batch and it can be my next submission.

In a similar vein, I have just received news of a Haibun acceptance. It’s the third time this particular Haibun has been out and it’s another slow burner as it seems to have been round for years. I worked on it for about a year and kept it back for a competition entry. It disappeared without trace, as most of my competition entries do, but I sent it out a couple more times and it has found a home. Sorry if this makes it sound like an adorable homeless kitten, but I do get attached to some of my poems.

In the past i have managed to place poems which have been turned down by as many as four editors, sometimes without even making changes. Once I even had one accepted within days of it being returned. And, in case you should think I am boasting, sometimes I haven’t. Sometimes I’ve had something returned two or three times, lost faith in it and allowed it to fade away.

I’ve read blogs by other poets who say they had things accepted after a dozen refusals, or that they are still trying years after they wrote something. I don’t have that level of confidence or fortitude. Or, to be honest, organisation.

Meanwhile, the fruit pictures are part of our harvest. The plums are doing well, the blackberries ditto, and the tomatoes are just coming into their own. We really must get a greenhouse when we move. The figs are a gift – not sure about the variety, but they aren’t Brown Turkey like the last lot. They are very sweet and so ripe you can just suck the contents out.  Photos are via Julia’s phone.

Smells and Drugs and Water Voles

So many small pieces of news that it’s difficult to know where to start. My drug delivery arrived last night as planned. After 18 months it seems that I may have got through to them that I’m not at home during the day and that as they need refrigeration I need an evening delivery. Seems simple but it’s been hard work getting the idea across. They offer evening delivery slots so I don’t know what the problem is. It’s a small victory, but one that feels worth celebrating.

There was no smell of sewerage in the shop this morning. I’m cautiously optimistic that yesterday’s gurgling was a sign that things have been fixed. However, based on previous experience, it could be too soon to say it’s solved.

Following on from the last good news on acceptance I have had two more, one yesterday and one today. The momentum is building again. The tanka that was accepted today was one that was not selected last week. You just can’t tell what an editor is going to like.

I watched a news report on the reintroduction of water voles last night. They released several hundred in the lake District. The main thing with helping the water vole population increase is that you have to control the population of American Mink. I’ll let you read up on the subject. I’ve already made my mind up. American Mink don’t appear in Wind in the Willows, and thus, in my opinion, have no place in our waterways. The link has, in case you didn’t read it, the fascinating fact that mink droppings smell pungent and fishy whereas otter droppings smell of jasmine tea. It’s difficult, reading that, to imagine what some of these researchers get up to when left to work unsupervised.

Yellow Flag Irises

The Power of Planning 2

If you have come straight here, you my need to go back to what is Part 1. However, it isn’t listed as such because I didn’t know it was going to be  two-parter when I started. Or even when I finished, to be honest.

hat happened was that I drifted off at a tangent and didn’t realise I was going to want to revisit it.

So, the poetry plan. First we need a target that is Specific. We will go for the acceptance of 50 Japanese style poems and 25 “ordinary” ones. That’s four a month for the Japanese and two a month for the others.It’s not a huge target, as I’ve already had thirty one accepted in the last ten months.I’m thinking that I will end the 12 months on about 40. Fifty is not a big jump from there. The twenty five is a bigger jump, as I haven’t submitted any fr a couple of years, but at two a month I should be able to do that. To be more specific I am going to go for 20 Haibun/Tanka Prose, 20 Tanka and ten haiku. I’m not very good at haiku so that is probably the biggest challenge.

That’s specific done. Measurable is easy enough – acceptances of poetry submitted  in the months of August 2023 to July 2024. It can be a bit tricky measuring poetry as the lead time after acceptance can make counting tricky, which is why I’m counting acceptances.

I’ve already covered Achievable in the Specific category – none of the figures I’ve quoted are outrageous and I’m sure the Japanese figure is going to be realistic as I hardly submit any haiku at the moment. The other figure, the twenty five is a bit more speculative, but not unrealistic. I have lost count but I think when I was submitting free verse a few years ago I had bout ten accepted by decent journals.

My Orange Parker Pen

Realistic already seems to have been fully covered from the writing point of view. From the publishing point of view, there should be enough openings to get this number of poems published. There are some magazines where i do badly, as in always get knocked back, but there are enough to take fifty and I will just have to up my game and try harder to crack the others. That’s the thing with targets – with targets I try different magazines, without them I tend to withdraw to my comfort zone.

Time? Twelve months. I assumed that from the beginning.

I will now need to set my diary out for 12 months, including all the likely magazines and submission windows. Then I will have to remember to keep a total and compare it to the plan. That’s it. Simple.

Now let’s see what happens.

Stone on the Floor






Time for a Change of Pace

Here’s a Tanka prose from a while back. I thought it was time for a more relaxed posting. It’s tempting, after my recent reading of a book of poetry criticism, to write about the poem. But I won’t, because it won’t improve anything.

This was first published in Ribbons, in Winter 2023.

The Shadow of the Red Kite

Simon Wilson, Nottingham, UK

The autumn sun warms my back as we sit in the old stable yard. My wife outlines her plans for the day and I run my fingers over the grain in the silvery surface of the weathered tearoom table. Our tea and bara brith arrive. Translated from the Welsh, bara brith means speckled bread, referring to the dried fruit that is its most noticeable feature.

Three wasps also arrive. Two fly away as my wife flaps her hand at them, but one lands on the table and stalks my food. It hauls itself over the rim and begins to gorge on the juicy centre of a raisin. My wife tells me to chase it off but I don’t have the heart. It is September and soon it will die. I can spare a little dried fruit for a fellow struggler.

She breaks off the conversation and points over my shoulder. I turn to see the distinctive silhouette of a Red Kite overhead. When I was a child, it was a very rare bird in the UK, and survived only in Wales. I remember the combined thrill and disappointment I experienced on a family holiday when I was ten years old–the profile and the flash of red that denoted a kite, but at a distance so great I could hardly see it, and never quite believed I had seen one.

kites in the sky
and mist on the mountains
with you beside me
if this is all life is
it is enough


Red Kites at Gigrin Farm

Adventures with a Keyboard

It is done. It is not done well, but by the end I was just concentrating on the clock. My 7th submission departed my email box at 11.45pm, a full fifteen minutes before the deadline. The eighth, I had already mentally abandoned.

I have learnt some useful lessons about writing in the last few weeks, so it hasn’t been the chaotic waste it may look like from the outside. I’ve also learnt about time management. Or possibly I have relearnt that, as I tend to make the same mistake over and over – not allowing enough time, and always over-estimating my ability to work at high speed as the deadline approaches.

Turning on my email this morning I found I had already had one acceptance – an editor with superpowers. How can anyone work that fast? Also, of course, an editor with exquisite taste.

In my haste, Iet a typo slip through in the accepted tanka prose. This is embarrassing and amateurish. Unfortunately, in missing off the “t” from “the” I still made the word “he” and my lazy reliance on spellcheckers let me down.

Even worse, I woke this morning and remembered that one of the other submissions went off with a single word descriptive title title. You are supposed to be more complicated when submitting tanka prose and haibun. Unfortunately, I tend to start with a title that helps me find it when it’s mixed up with forty or fifty other poems. It’s something I’ve done before when I’ve been rushing. If the poem is good I will probably be asked to do a new title. If it isn’t, I will be able to come up with a new one as part of the edit. I’ve just thought of a good one whilst writing this.

Blood test now. See you later.

My Orange Parker Pen

Old Oaks of Sherwood Forest

Some Haiku

I’m always a bit worried about posting poetry because it’s not really a poetry blog. It seems a little unfair to force people to read poetry if they haven’t signed up for it, particularly as people feel obliged to be nice. That’s why I rarely post poetry that hasn’t been published elsewhere first. At least that way, it has been filtered by a proper editor and should be OK.

However, a while ago I did say that I would post a few, so here are a few haiku and senryu to start.

Three lines and a web of rules/definitions/restrictions don’t really suit me. I’d love to be a competent writer of haiku, but I’m locked in a circular system with them. I find them difficult so I don’t write many, and because I don’t write many I don’t improve. It’s also why I struggle with haibun too, as I can write the prose, but can’t nail the haiku. They are, as I say in an unpublished essay on writing haiku, slippery. Give me a tanka, with five lines and freedom from restrictions and I find it a lot easier. The same goes for Tanka Prose, the clumsy name for the Haibun equivalent that uses a tanka in place of the haibun.

I suppose if I were a serious poet, I would accept the challenge of haiku but I actually write for the pleasure of seeing words do things, not because I like difficulty.

Here are a few with a vaguely Christmas/Winter theme. The first has been adapted from a senryu that originally had the first line “Birthday” but it still works.

bright paper packages
-the disappointment of socks

Failed Haiku April 2022

melting snow
rooks stalk
the dappled field

Presence Issue 69

a robin
sings from the blackthorn
we queue for the shop

Wales Haiku Journal Spring  2021

lighter nights
the bus passenger smiles
on his way home

Presence Issue 72

I put them in two columns to make the layout slightly more interesting, but it has the effect of altering the formatting for the ones that  are in the second row. Many people do centre their poems so I think I can get away with it. I tried using three columns but that involves right hand justification and that definitely looks odd. I’m sure there’s another way to do it but I’m not sure I have the spare thought capacity to devote to it at the moment. I have ten poems to submit before in the next 38 hours and they aren’t cooperating.

Robin of Sherwood

A New Record

I sent a group of poems out yesterday evening, and had an acceptance later that night. It’s a new speed record for an acceptance, and probably a sign that I’m not the only one champing at the bit after a few days off.

There is one more set of submissions to send off before the end of the year (or within the next two days, to put it another way, though that sounds a bit more desperate). I am just about on top of that, but as soon as that ends I am straight into a month with five more submissions needed. That’s quite daunting as this hasn’t been a productive month and I have little left to send.

I thought I had plenty down on paper but when i looked again a few weeks ago I realised I had quite a bit written, but nothing finished. A good number of the pieces had bits missing as i struggled to find the right words and I’m still no closer finishing them. This isn’t unusual and most of them will eventually be completed. It’s just that if I get myself in the position of being unable to finish I often find it can take months to get it right.

I’ve been going through things tonight and have tinkered with several I’ve also cut a couple substantially because both language and thoughts were sloppy. None of them are actually finished yet, but I have four weeks until they really need to be sent. Fortunately I have another selection in draft form – either as notes or in on paper, so I have not yet run dry.

Pre-Covid I had myself organised so I was able to send things out on the first day of a submission window opening. I always feel that puts you at an advantage. Submit early and you only have to be good. Submit late and you have to be good, and be better than the people who submitted earlier.

Since Covid, and my several months of inability to write, I have not yet caught up. I will, but it won’t be this year.

My Orange Parker Pen

Note to self – Parker Pens seem impervious to my attempts to earn money, or free pens, from product placement.

Day 31

It didn’t seem natural to begin with, but numbering instead of titling the posts now seems normal, and saves time. However, unlike a finely crafted pun or alliteration there is little satisfaction to be gained from just writing a number. I may have to reconsider later in the year.

All my submissions are in and there is still an hour to spare. It isn’t the best way of doing things, but it certainly got me moving. Five submissions in three days, and some of them weren’t even written at this time last night. I think we can say that the pressure got me writing again. I’m just contemplating using the time difference between here and the USA to my advantage, but that might be overdoing it.

I now need to update my submissions log. I also need to write the submissions plan for the coming year. Then I need to sort out my haiku and tanka. Because they don’t have titles, and because I’ve taken my eye off the ball, I have lost control of them and don’t know what’s what. That was one of the reasons I had to write new tanka, I just can’t remember where I’ve sent some of the existing ones before, and I can’t recall every accepted one.

Time for bed now, and the admin and other problems can wait.

Here is the Larkin poem – it’s not quite as good as I remember it, but then I have deteriorated with the passing of the years. It was originally in Failed Haiku Number 62 and there are a few notes about it here and here.

Hidden Worlds

He wears a grey gaberdine and rides a bicycle from church to church.
In his head he composes poems about sex and tombs. On YouTube he
flickers in black and white, like a newsreel from the 1950s. Smiles are
clearly still on ration.

Larkin used more bad language than you normally expect from a
librarian. This becomes understandable when you find that he started
his day with half a bottle of sherry.

monochrome photo
my parents younger than me

The header picture is the sort of picture I think a poet should have -, not like the pale and washed out old codger that actually appears in my biographical notes.


Comments on Rejection

I had a rejection email a couple of days ago, which was quite good as it had several notes with it. In general it gives me plenty of information about what the editor is thinking, though actual “improvements” are not quite so plentiful. I will act on the suggestions, as they took time and effort to produce, but like several other of my published pieces, I will also write the one i want to write and try again. Poems are, after all, only words and, as I have said before, I have plenty of words to write another one. It’s not like every poem published depletes the stock of words for the rest of us.

The three main points are that I should show, not tell. Last time I sent something to that magazine the comment was that I should have shown the house being built. There was, in the entire poem, no mention of a house being built, and in real life no house was built. The editor imagined it as a result of the poem. This is both good and bad, and after reading up I found that telling is sometimes necessary. It’s one of those things you find when you have contact with editors – inconsistency, grey areas and matters of opinion. Usually, I tell too much and gradually edit it out as I condense the poem. However, this can take months and I wrote the poem in question in three days. The problem wasn’t so much telling not showing – it was rushing things and  not editing properly. I’ll hold my hand up to that one.

Then there was the question of certain phrases and whether they were “poetic” or necessary. One of them was a metaphor that linked with other things in the poem, but that wasn’t noted. I’m obviously too subtle. Another was a phrase that most of you would have recognise a my speaking voice. I tend to write as I speak and I don’t always sound like Shelly or Frost. This irks me slightly a it’s like I’m being edited out of my own poems. It’s happened with others too, so this isn’t unusual.

Finally, the suggestions seem to have reduced the poem to a short paragraph with a tanka at each side. Whether this is by accident or not, I’m not clear. Over the years haibun have become shorter. I presume the same is true for tanka prose, though I admit I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to write them. It seems to be a particularly American thing – a few lines of prose and a quick poem, usually with a tangential connection to the prose, referred to as “link and shift“. What they don’t tell you is that there are other ways of connecting the two elements.

I will stop there, lest I go on to explore other areas where editors may have blind spots dictated by fashion. I’m very close to 500 words now, which is a long post on a subject that is mainly of interest only to me.

My Orange Parker Pen