Category Archives: writing

Haiku and Haibun

I have had a couple of pieces published online recently.

One was a haiku in Wales Haiku Journal Spring 2021. You can either go down from the top – I’m about 154 down, or work up from the end – I’m about 35th if you start at the bottom. Ther are so many

The other is in Drifting Sands, and is available here.

I like being in online journals because I can share the links and show off.  I also like being in printed journals, because I like seeing myself on a page, and admire the editors who keep the tradition of print journals going. In the next month or two I’m going to sort out my subscriptions. I think the least I can do is subscribe to 12 different journals. It’s not as if I smoke or drink anymore. All I need to do is spread them out a bit so that I don’t land myself with a big bill one month. Christmas is always a bad time because so many subscriptions to different things fall due at the end of the year. Don’t they ever stop and think about this? Why put all the subscriptions at the most expensive time of the year?

Of course, there’s a certain amount of self-interest at work here, and I will be supporting journals that I’m in, or want to be in. I’m a realist, not a saint…

Meanwhile, I have a few pieces from print journals that are probably old enough to be reprinted on the blog. I’ll sort them out in the next week or so.

 

Reading, writing, wittering on…

This is a post I wrote this morning. I arrived at work slightly earlier than usual and found there were only two parcels to pack, so that was soon done. I don’t access WP from the work computer, as I don’t want to blur too many lines, but I do sometimes check my emails, so I emailed this to myself.

After posting last night, I spent some time looking at poetry to see what I could do to improve. First stop was  a magazine that usually rejects my work. The editor does give me advice from time to time, which only increases my confusion. I don’t always understand what they say to me, and I definitely don’t understand why things identified as faults in my work are acceptable in the work of others. I found several examples and spent half an hour studying them for clues as to what makes them publishable when I am not. I looked at all sorts of things apart from the writing and the content, including subject, voice and style, and I couldn’t se what the successful pieces had that I didn’t. I’ll have a go in a few months and see what I can see.

Better informed, but mystified, I moved on. If I keep seeking, I am sure I will find something to explain it, and even if I don’t , I am bound to learn something and improve, simply by looking at things in greater detail.

It’s that pond again. The haibun that it inspired was eventually split in two. One half was published. The second half formed the basis of another haibun I am still working on.

I found two by someone from the UK and decided to look him up. I do that sometimes. He writes in several forms and has published nearly a thousand pieces in 20 years. He belongs to two writers’ groups, reads in public and plans all his poems out. I’m already sensing several differences in our approach. I don’t like the idea of writers’ groups, don’t like speaking in public, and although I do think of planning I rarely do any. I say “rarely” but if you were to pin me down on detail, I may alter that to never. But I do sometimes thing of planning, which is nearly the same. However, despite the differences there is one similarity – we keep writing, learning and submitting.

My normal planning process is to think “I’m going to write something.” I may have to look at that again.

At that point, or some defined point in the future (generally after eating or watching TV) I write. Then I write some more and try to add something at the beginning that is also mentioned at the end. If you do that it looks like you had a plan. Then I take all the bad words out – long words because they are just showing off, adjectives because they are frowned on in poetry, and clichés – shards is one of the main ones that people go on about but myriads, hosts and cerulean are also unwelcome.

Then I leave it to rest. Some of my published work has been resting for a couple of years, with a gentle nudge and a prune now and again. Sometimes I add a bit, but mostly it’s a process of reduction. Then one day I send it out into the world. It often returns. So I cut, shape and send it out again. If it comes back too many times, I think about reusing bits of it.

It’s sometimes difficult to judge. Some poems go out four or five times and are eventually accepted. Others go once or twice and get parked. It all depends on how much confidence I have in them. One went out five times before being accepted, another was accepted on its fourth attempt (four days after being rejected by another magazine).  As Chuck Berry said ” It goes to show you can never can tell.”

An attempt at artistry

 

Running Like a Hamster

It seems like I’ve been writing all day, and all I’ve done so far is catch up on work that I’d allowed to get behind last week. This morning’s post doesn’t really count because it had mostly been written and was just lying in drafts waiting for me to press the button. I did have a  short break for lunch, but having learnt from past experience, I got back to work before a nap attack had time to occur.

I’ve not done a lot of reading recently, so I apologise for neglecting you all but things have been quite hectic. I’ve slept a little too much time away in front of the TV and I’ve put in four submissions in the last four days and I’m trying to do a fifth, though I’m not doing well on that one as I still haven’t touched it today. This is all made more time-consuming by my poor time management abilities.

I’ve also being doing another Buson 100. I did one before, and tried another which I didn’t complete. I’m now four weeks into the new one. I looked at links for the Buson 100, and you’ll never guess what – one of my posts was the fifth. Embarrassingly, it’s from my second attempt, which petered out. I know other people have done it, because I’ve seen it mentioned on several occasions, but very few people seem to want to admit it.

That is, of course, another reason why I’ve been short of time. I’m writing 70 haiku a week and trying to do a few diary notes each day to put them in context. Some days it takes twenty minutes, some days I don’t get them done. What tends to happen is that I write them down, but don’t get round to typing them up, which can be a problem on days like today, when I have fifty or sixty haiku to type plus some back-dated diary notes. Actually, I’m writing over 70 a week because I often do a few extra and when I’m typing them I often have a couple of ideas for new ones. Some of them are OK, so it’s not a waste. I will tell you more about it in another post. Meanwhile, if you don’t see me about as much as usual, it’s all part of the process. I have just about sorted it out now and am hoping to get back into the swing of things by the end of next week.

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

 

D H Lawrence Wonders What’s For His Tea – A Poem

Here’s the poem I had published in Obsessed with Pipework back in February. It is published in paper form rather than on the internet, which means I can’t link to it at the time of publication. I’m not sure what the precise etiquette is with quoting it after that, but it seems reasonable to do it once the next issue is out. That arrived this week, so it seems as good a time as any.

It’s meant to be tongue in cheek, but I’m worried that published alongside more serious poetry it might look like I’m being serious. This is not a poem about the dietary requirements of a well-known Nottinghamshire writer, it’s a poem showing that even serious literary heavyweights get hungry, and that they just dawdle about waiting to be served. D. H. Lawrence does not strike me as the sort of man who would make his own tea. I know he was considered advanced for his time but I’m not sure that this extended to housework.

I should read up on him, and as Julia’s uncle wrote a couple of biographies of Lawrence, which we have in the house, I have no excuse.

It has the rhyme scheme of a villanelle, but I couldn’t get the lines to the correct length without adding words to pad them out, so I gave up. It’s probably best described as “modelled on a villanelle” but ” a poor attempt at a villanelle” would also be fair. For a good villanelle, try here, or here.

In the end, as has been said by many people, you don’t finish a poem, you just abandon it. After hacking away at this one for nearly three years, I decided it was time to set it free.

D H Lawrence Wonders What’s For His Tea

The kettle sits on the hearth and sings
and Eastwood seems so far away.
He writes of snakes and other phallic things
and wonders what teatime will bring,
coughing gently at the close of day.
The kettle sits on the hearth and sings.
Dusk closes in on phoenix wings,
with thoughts of mothers and mortality.
He writes of snakes and other phallic things,
thinks of muffins, jam and apron strings,
and crumpets laid out on a tray.
The kettle sits on the hearth and sings
as he stretches out his stiffening limbs.
Could life have gone another way?
He writes of snakes and other phallic things,
ponders the fates of men and kings
and wonders where life went astray.
The kettle sits on the hearth and sings:
he writes of snakes, and other phallic things.

Stirrings of Artistic Temperament

I think I may be developing an artistic temperament. This is not good, as I am not an artist. I am a word mechanic and rely on calm and orderly conduct, plus a large vocabulary and a metaphorical bag of literary spanners – swapping words in and out and tightening things up as necessary. I don’t do art and I don’t do feelings.

I read through the submission guidelines of a magazine late last night and decided, despite previous decisions to the contrary, that I wasn’t going to submit. They just struck me as a bit sloppy and as I have a limited supply of poetry it seemed a waste to tie it up for three months or more when I could show it to people who would give me quicker responses (and allow me to resubmit it elsewhere).

I never seem to have enough good poetry to go round, so I can, to some extent, be selective. It’s not an approach that I want to extend, because I always feel the need to keep opportunities open, and it’s also borderline arrogance. I’m definitely not so good that I can afford to start acting like that.

However, I do remember from my business days that there are sales you don’t want to make, and sometimes you just need to walk away. In this case there are two other magazines that I can submit to. They are not necessarily quicker, but they are more professional and it is all laid out beforehand without any words like “we aim to”.  That’s a bit like saying “we often don’t”.

This attitude, of course, is partly due to my involvement with haiku and haibun – those magazines seem to be a bit quicker and more poet-centred in their approach. Many poetry magazines won’t give feedback, and say so in their submission guidelines, one editor even going as far as to say that if you want feedback you should go to a writers’ group. I can’t imagine anything worse than sitting in a room full of writers and having to read my work out. Even salad and exercise seem more attractive.

Rainbow – Spring Evening

The photograph is of a rainbow we saw tonight,. Julia go a shot with her phone which showed it as a double but I was just too late. Unfortunately I can’t download the photo she took so you will have to put up with mine.

Stuck for a Subject

It’s 23.22 and I have made a late start. I have also made two false starts, one on the subject of writer biographies and one on the subject of aiming for 100 rejections.

I have a strong dislike of biographical notes in poetry magazines, because I really don’t give a toss for the lives of the various poets that appear in the magazines I subscribe to. I don’t read them because I am interested to know that A spent twenty years in teaching or B has a degree in Creative Writing. I read them because they write something worth reading. I am at one with the editors who don’t do notes on the grounds that the magazine is about poetry.

I’m not against talking about myself, as you will know if you read the blog regularly, but I am against writing about myself when I’m trying to get poetry published. There are too many dull biographical notes, including ones that are just lists of publications, and I don’t see any need to add to them.

Anyway, I have nothing interesting to say.

I’m currently deciding on the look for the photograph one magazine has asked me for. Do I take a selfie as I am? That will, as Julia points out, establish me as a man in the tradition of W H Davis, the tramp poet. Though, strangely, he always looks well-groomed in all the photos you see of him. Or do I  shave my head, trim my beard and end up looking like the idiot brother of Ming the Merciless? It’s not an easy choice, and it doesn’t change my writing, just the opinion people have of me.

Then there is the question of the 100 rejections. It’s really about upping the number of submissions and aiming high. That, so far, is where I have failed. I only made four submissions last month and so far this month have only submitted one thing. I have several other submissions in the planning stage but I doubt I’ll manage more than four this month, as I don’t have the finished material to send. It hasn’t helped that I’ve slowed down this month, just when I really needed to get a move on.

When I started writing poetry I didn’t realise that so much of my writing life would revolve around haircuts, autobiography and planning. I thought it was all about writing. Silly me.

Robin on a Fence

Chaffinch on the same fence

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Restrospective

I’ve had a bad few days struggling with time management, fluency and my internal editor. I am now just going to sit down and write. This is post 2,300 so I really should have got the hang of it by now.

All that time ago, I intended to advertise the work of Quercus Community and to educate the world about aspects of nature. Eight hundred thousand words later it looks like I ended up writing about poetry and Cup a Soup. that was not how I envisaged the blog developing. Nor was it how I imagined my life unfolding.

Later…

Well, I nearly sat down and wrote. What actually happened was that Julia rang up wanting a lift back from the laundrette, we went to lunch at KFC, dropped in at the garden centre and had a drive round.  I can’t quite remember, but I think thi is our first outing since the autumn. Unless you count going to work as an outing. Even my social life isn’t so bad that I need to consider going to work as an outing. Not quite.

While we were out I noted the varieties of tree and flower blooming. I’m a poet, I need to know these things. The crocuses are gone, the daffodils are in full flower and the primroses just beginning to show. We did see a good clump of something that looked a lot like purple crocuses, but which turned out to be some sort of dead nettle – probably ground ivy but I’m a bit patchy on identifying dead nettles. They are all edible, so it doesn’t really matter if you are just wanting something to sprinkle on a salad.

With that number of words I could have written eight books. That would be more impressive as an answer when asked what I wrote. “Eight books”, even if they are about Cup a Soup , is a much more impressive answer than “a blog”. And even “a blog” is a more impressive answer than “haibun”. At least people have heard of blogs.

We’ve just had tea and banana cake. We are trying to make the cake last.

There we go, it’s nonsense, but at least it’s fluent nonsense.

I’m now feeling the urge to write about Cup a Soup.

I Learn About Dogberryisms

I was just reading a comment on something I said recently when I thought of a subject for a post. I didn’t manage to write anything yesterday because I left it late and then had so much to say I couldn’t do it coherently.

Helen mentioned proofreading, and it set something off in my head.

Once, I was asked to proofread some documents. They were dull, repetitive, badly organised and owed more than a little to Mrs Malaprop. I resisted the temptation to rewrite everything, because that would be rude. I resisted the temptation for humour at the expense of the writer, because they were obviously doing their best.

In short, I was polite. I corrected the spelling mistakes and typos and I substituted the correct word. I can’t remember the exact word but it was a common mistake, something in the order of purposely purposefully. No big deal.  Then I sent the correction off and got on with my proper work.

A week or so later the agenda for the Management Committee meeting came out and included an item on “proofreading”. If they’d called it “vitriolic personal attack on Simon” it would have been more accurate.

Anyway, we got to Item 3 “Proofreading”, and the committee member concerned took a deep breath before launching her attack.

Random Robin

Several weeks previously the farm had tested bushcraft/mindfulness workshop put on by someone who was doing a psychology course. It was not, for a number of reasons, my sort of thing and as it was on my day off, I didn’t go.

However, I was told, I should have gone because that would have taught me the proper way to bring up the issue of corrections and I would have avoided hurting the feelings of the writer. I should, she told me, have mentioned something good about the work she did, given her the corrections and then gone on to say something nice about her work again.

This, of course, assumed that she had ever done two pieces of decent work. I am not convinced, from what I saw, that this was the case.

You may recognise the technique. In polite circles it’s known as the “praise sandwich“, the “feedback sandwich”, the “sandwich technique” or the “constructive criticism sandwich”. It’s an insincere and predictable technique, which often fails to get the message across and has never, as far as I can remember, been considered a good technique, except by people who write books on how to manage. And yes, there is another term for it.

I smiled, apologised for my lack of  manners and management sophistication and prepared for Item 4.

That was when the floodgates opened. I was, it seems, rude, arrogant and totally lacking in empathy. Unlike me, she didn’t have a degree or a good education and she was doing her best. Blah, blah, blah…

The Ecocentre – scene of the vitriolic personal attack

It seemed like a long time, though it was probably only a few minutes. I switched off and let it run its course. The irony, of course, is that I don’t have a degree. However, you don’t need a degree when you have a dictionary and know what order the letters are in.

I believe that best practice in management is to praise people when you can, and when they need correcting giv e it to them straight. If you give praise where it is due there should be no need to dress the criticism up.

So, how does this relate to anything? or is it just an Ancient Blogger rattling on to fill space?

Well, it relates to criticising blogs. I was very tempted to comment negatively on a blog post this week because somebody was commenting on the Harry and Meghan interview. Unfortunately they seemed to believe everything said about it by (a) Meghan and (b) a number of American journalists. The post and the journalists relied mainly on opinion, and when facts were available in two cases they didn’t use them.

However, do I have the right to go onto another blog and criticise it? Is it really important? Harry and Meghan are, in truth, not important. They think they are, but that is a different matter.  When I find a blog I don’t like or a blogger who irritates me I try to avoid them rather than argue.

This brings up my three questions. One is just a repeat of the one above – do we have a right to go on someone’s blog and disagree or criticise?

Two, if that blog is deliberately provocative, does this alter the answer?

Photo by Kirsten Bu00fchne on Pexels.com

Three, if we don’t argue, are we validating their points? By not engaging in a debate about the veracity of everything said by Harry and Meghan, am I actually helping them to establish their version of the facts as truth?

And for those of you who don’t follow the links – a Dogberryism is the same as a malapropism. This is something I learned today, which illustrates the difference between having a degree and having an education.