Tag Archives: haibun

Smugness, Success and the Art of the Humblebrag

Warning – this post may contain smugness and inappropriate levels of self-satisfaction. I have also invented a new (to me ) form of humblebrag –

Do you realise how much time it takes emailing editors to thank them for accepting your work? I’ve had to do it three times in the last three days and it’s hard finding time to actually write the poems.

That’s. of course, an exaggeration, as i’d be happy to spend all day thanking editors, and in truth it only took about ten minutes in total. I tend, like editors to have a fairly standard reply, because after “thank you” there isn’t much to say.

The story is that I have spent the last few days hammering away at the keyboard. I did this because I am lazy and disorganised and only work when under threat of a deadline. Even then, the “work” of writing poetry doesn’t compare to cleaning out a chicken she in November, or cutting lawns in the middle of summer. Anyway, I managed six submissions in the last  four days (they were written but not finished.

One had an acceptance within 24 hours. I have already written about that. This morning I had an email to tell me someone had accepted three poems from yesterday’s submissions (which is a high level of editor industry and well beyond the call of duty. This evening I switched the computer on and found two more had been accepted. That had taken several days, which is still stunningly speedy considering editors also have day jobs and get piles of poetry sent to them.

Obviously, I’m happy and grateful, and, as you may have noticed before, success is a double edged sword, as I start to worry about repeating it. However, it goes deeper than that. It’s 12 months since I had cellulitis and the associated sepsis, and about eleven since I had Covid. It has taken all that time for me to get going again and to feel I am back up to standard.

Unknown Stories – a haibun

This is an example of a haibun, following on from yesterday’s post. The eldest (tallest) daughter is my grandmother. She isn’t holding his hand, as mentioned in the poem, but it is the last photograph. For more information see The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1), or The Carus Brothers at War (Part 2) or The Carus Brothers at War (Part 3).

It was first published in The Haibun Journal April 2022.

Unknown Stories

last photograph
in it my grandma holds
a soldier’s hand

In 1920 the Great War was over, but the grieving continued. The British Army exhumed four unidentified bodies from the major battle areas of the Great War. After four years of fighting there was no shortage of choice. There are differing stories about the secretive process, and nobody knows exactly what happened. However, we do know that on the night of 7th November 1920, a General, either blindfolded, or with his eyes closed, selected one of them.

That body became the most celebrated British soldier of the war – the Unknown Warrior. He lies in Westminster Abbey – the only tombstone in the Abbey where nobody is allowed to walk. He is buried with a Crusader’s sword, a gift from the King, in a coffin made from an oak tree that once grew at Hampton Court. The Americans gave him the Medal of Honor and, in 2020, his hundredth anniversary, the Poet Laureate wrote a poem for him.

The remaining three were reburied by the roadside under cover of darkness. They were eventually found by a Grave Registration Unit and moved to a cemetery, as were thousands of other wayside graves. For them, there was no grand ceremony, just a stone marked, like thousands of others, “Known unto God”.

a poppy cross
each year her eyes filled up
two minutes pass

What is a Haibun?

I was asked recently, in the comments, for a definition of a haibun. The quick answer is that it’s some prose with a haiku. As answers go, that’s accurate, but not particularly useful.

It’s likely, if you look back at old poems, that it doesn’t actually have to have a haiku. However, try convincing an editor of that.

A haiku is a very short poem that, over the years, has attracted a lot of rules. In Japanese it has 17 “on”, which are sound units. They are not the same as syllables, though they were originally treated as if they were. In Japanese “haiku” has three “on”., but only two syllables in English. Originally we were told to write haiku in three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. If you check on the internet, you will still be told that. This is wrong.

We are now allowed to use lines of different length and told that 13 syllables is probably about right. We aren’t supposed to include ourselves or poetic devices in haiku and they are supposed to have a season word, talk of nature and a cutting word to differentiate the two parts of the haiku. They like to have two parts – one being what you saw and the other (usually the last line), something that acts as as a contrast. If they talk of human nature, they are senryu, but for haibun purposes they are much the same. They also have simplicity and various sad, wistful feelings attached to them. As I say, short poem, a lot of rules.

Strangely, a lot of the “rules” started off as guidelines and, in the minds of various editors, become rules.

My Orange Parker Pen

Then you get the prose. It should be terse and haiku-like, because it then mirrors the haiku. Or if you read another well-respected poet, it should be different in style from a haiku, as the same style will make it boring.

The haiku should be different from the subject matter, and should “link and shift”. Or, according to another well-known haibun writer, that’s not correct. and is based on a misunderstanding. No, I can’t explain “link and shift” properly. And considering the experience of all the poets and their different views, I can’t tell you exactly what a haibun is either,

Tanka prose is slightly easier to understand. It’s a tanka (five line poem) and prose. There are fewer rules and less discussion about tanka prose, so it’s easier to write. You can concentrate on the writing instead of worrying about hitting the targets imposed by various, contradictory, rules.

Finally, the poem and prose can be placed in different ways. This can be poem and prose or prose and poem. It can also be prose, poem, prose or poem, prose, poem. Or other ways. As usual, there are Japanese words for all these things. And, as usual, I can’t remember them.

That’s a vey short, simple and not exactly neutral explanation. I’ll post a few poems and links over the next few days.

Orange Parker Pen

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 35

I had an email today, and I’m happy. For the next month I am going to be on the front page of contemporary haibun online. It feels a bit like being famous, as I’ve actually heard of the other two who are on there. However, to drift back from dreams of fame and success for a moment, if you are reading this in March, you will ned to use this link as I fade back into obscurity and gradually become part of the clutter at the back of the internet.

I’ve just realised that I’m back in drifting sands haibunI had been rejected for the last two issues but manged to pull something out of the bag for this one. It was mainly written before I became ill in the autumn and I managed to get it polished just in time. Same with the cho submission. Now I just need to get back in my stride for the spring.

I’ve developed some bad habits while I’ve been taking a rest from writing – spending too much time on eBay for instance, and thinking about the problems of the world. I need to get back to poetry and away from real life.

Last night Julia kept twitching in bed, and every time she did so, the covers acted like bellows, drawing cold air across my shoulders and waking me up. It wasn’t all bad, because as I lay awake I invented a new way of keeping warm at night.

Unfortunately, in the cold light of dawn, I realised that the Reheating Hot Water Bottle  wasn’t going to be a goer. It would have been OK in the 1920s when it would have been fine to link a container of water to the mains electricity, using that braided brown flex favoured by our grandparents. But Julia doesn’t think they would allow it now. She also points out that electric blankets are easier and safer and if I feel cold in bed maybe I should buy one and stop waking her at 6am to discuss my ideas for new inventions. I’m afraid she isn’t always open to new ideas, like the one I had about her adding “the famous poet” after every mention of my name. I mentioned that after showing her the cho page. She’s not keen . . .

The top picture is one of Simon Wilson, the famous poet.It’s the unedited version of the one in cho and you can clearly see that my “office” includes a microwave, a kettle and a coin cabinet.

 

 

 

Four Day Holiday – Shopping for a Month

I finally lost my self-control and added a large pork pie to the Christmas food  order. Well, I haven’t had one for months and Christmas seemed like the ideal excuse. I’m going to make up for it by having more soup. Tootlepedal suggested celery and Stilton cheese and it sounds like a good idea. All I need to  do is persuade Julia. She’s not keen on celery. I am.

It’s fair to say that despite all my efforts I have manged to buy enough food for ten days (apart from fresh bread), so it should last us for what is basically just a long weekend. It’s fortunate that I have been making soup because I’m likely to have plenty of turkey and vegetables to use up. That’s probably the best bit of Christmas. I like sitting round, and I like a good roast dinner, but most of all I like turkey sandwiches.

Goosanders

That’s one of the good things about a turkey crown – plenty of meat and not much skeleton. It used to be hard, in the old days of whole turkeys, to escape the impression that you were some sort of serial killer as you laboured over a big pot of bones and boiling water. Turkey soup and turkey curry are OK, but it’s far easier just to have cold meat or sandwiches without all that bother.

Marsh Tit, I think

Two days ago, I submitted a haibun, expecting an answer some time in the New Year. It’s the first real submission I’ve done since September (the October one was a bit of a mess) and I have been sitting here gradually  leaking confidence. When then answer came back, I wasn’t hopeful. Quick answers are usually bad news. This one, for a change, wasn’t. Not only am I accepted but the editor in question didn’t ask for any alterations. I’m already feeling much more positive about 2022.

Now all I need to do is sort out my submission schedule and set myself some targets.

Photographs are from Rufford Abbey in December 2016, in the days when I could walk and take photos.

Cormorant

A Pleasant Surprise, a Haibun and another Senior Moment

Today, the 19th of September 2021, I had  pleasant surprise. I opened up Drifting Sands Haibun and found my haibun on the front page. I added the date because it will change over time. We are due for a new issue soon and it will change. But for a short while, I was there. Forgive my unseemly glee, but after being accepted a number of times it is difficult to set a new target, and getting to the front page of Drifting Sands was one that I had set myself.

For those of you reading this too late to see it on the front page, you can try here. Don’t get too excited, I think I posted the link before. It’s just the one about the crow and the ants.

Now, I know you are all wondering what I have done in the matter of Senior Moments. Well, some months ago, I had trouble with my emails, and nearly missed some emails from an editor. We managed to sort that out, but didn’t actually find the cause. Last week I finally started looking at my submission diary (remember I have been ill/lazy for a month) and realised that I should have had some contact from editors. I checked up and found that I had a haiku in a magazine. This was a surprise, but more evidence of the fact that I wasn’t getting emails, or I would have known it was being published.

This set up a panic reaction, because I don’t want to miss the chance of publication, or have editors think that I am rude or inefficient. I am both, but I don’t want people to think it . . .

I have just spent my afternoon writing to the editors who may have emailed me, explaining what happened. It’s a tricky email to write (three times) because there is always the chance that they may not have thought me worth responding to.

Earlier in the week I started to realise what I had done but, prodding around with my email controls in an unstructured and ill-informed way, managed to make it worse. Anyway, I have finally found the answer and corrected it.

I had reset my spam controls a couple of months ago to block a particularly irritating advertiser. In doing so, I had also added gmail to my list of blocked domains. This was clearly a bad move. However, it is unblocked now, explanations have been sent and I am a wiser man.

 

 

The Middle of the Night

I felt tired, so I fell asleep in my chair.  This is a bad thing to do, for many reasons. I then woke and went to get the pain killers from my desk. I still need them to get a good night’s sleep. While I was there I noticed the computer was on, so sat down and had a look at my emails. Over an hour later, I am still here and am now writing a blog post. This, if you needed any further evidence, demonstrates the deeply ingrained nature of my bad habits.

The good news is that my leg is looking good and it is likely that I will be released from the grip of the nurses in about two weeks if things continue as they are.  They are all nice people, and I enjoy our chats, but it will be nice to get my life back.

My diet is not going quite as well as it was, as Julia is intent on making sure I eat properly (by which she means “more”) and I want to eat as little as possible. I have definitely cut back, but the quicker I lose it, the sooner I can start to enjoy the benefits of being lighter. I’m never going to be slender, but it would be nice to lose weight.

The downside (there always has to be a downside) is that my trousers are now too big for me and I need to get a better belt or start moving the buttons on the waistband. It’s not a bad problem to have, but it does show the advantage of elasticated waistbands. If I lose weight I may go back to Chinos and elasticated waistbands.

The header picture is the pond that inspired one of my haibun. Lavinia mentioned it in the comments so I thought it was good opportunity to re-use the picture.

Words . . .

I’ve been learning new words this week. The best was logorrhoea, from Derrick. It sounds worse than it is and merely means wordiness or “extreme loquacity”. I would have said sesquipedalian myself, had I been in sophisticated mood. Or motormouth if I had been in my normal mode, though the meanings are slightly different. The advantage of sesquipedalian is that I can spell it. The advantage of logorrhoea is to be found in my rhyming dictionary. There is , literally, an embarrassment of riches to be found in there (though I had already managed the less tasteful ones without the help of the dictionary). My only reservation is that the dictionary omits pyorrhoea. It does, however, include pizzeria Tanzania and Ikea.  When I finally get round to it that’s going to be a heck of a Limerick . . .

I also learned prosimetrum,  It’s a word that is so little used that my spell checker doesn’t recognise it. It’s a piece of writing that combines prose and poetry. Yes, I was reading about haibun in an attempt to become a better writer of them. More specifically, prosimetrum is a form where the verse dominates. The form where prose dominates is versiprose. This seems the wrong way round to me, but that’s what Wikipedia says and I can’t find anything to contradict it, mainly because I can’t find anything when I search for versiprose. I’m suspicious that someone is just making words up.

You have to wonder how much knowledge is necessary before you can start to write something. As I’ve shown, I can write prosimetrum without knowing what it is. I can, after all, not explain the niceties of the Otto Cycle, but I have been successfully driving cars for the last 45 years.

Simon Wilson, Nottingham Poet

Haibun, Beards and Undesirable Company

I had to provide a picture for Drifting Sands Haibun this morning. I generally try to avoid that sort of thing but I keep being linked to a mystery photo of a younger, less hairy and, let’s be honest, less handsome man. I decided that the only way to combat the interloper was to provide a photo of myself. As you can see from the header picture, personal grooming has not been a priority in lockdown. Not that it has ever been at the top of my list.

You can find the new photo in action, plus a haibun, here, in the latest edition.

So, who was the mystery man? Turns out it was the Nottingham journalist Simon Wilson. I’m not sure how he sneaked into the magazine, but it’s not the first time he’s caused confusion.  I tracked him down using “Search Google for Image”. I then, of course, had to check my own picture. I am still on  page that mainly comprises sex offenders and drunks, though this time there were two theologians on the page too. Plus a man advertising that he would like to rent a room. That, I feel, is the plot of a horror film waiting to unfold. Who invites someone into their home in response to any internet advert, let alone one featuring someone who looks like me.  To make things even worse, halfway down the page toy can find Gary Glitter. I suppose he’s unknown outside the UK, but he used to be known as a popular musician.

Sorry – just looked and realised how big the picture is. I don’t seem to be able to reduce it. If you are of a nervous disposition, I apologise.