Tag Archives: haiku

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 135

The morning is now over and I have spent it having a lie in, eating porridge, repairing a strimmer, catching up on reading and . . . er . . . that’s it. I am currently writing the first few lines of the blog whilst waiting for the kettle to boil (having received shouted instructions from the garden.

It has just boiled, so I will do as I am told and hope to be back with you soon.

Farmer Ted, the knitted bear assistant

Later . . .

I read some of the Haiku Society of America mentorship booklet, which I found hard going. It’s more or less a writer bio followed by three haiku and with a few kind words about the mentorship scheme.

Or, if you look it up on Google, it may be the Human Slaughter Association Mentorship programme. I have a limited capacity for reading haiku (though it is less limited than my capacity for reading them), and don’t like video conferencing or workshops, so you will be more likely to see me discussing humane slaughter than haiku. I confess, and have never hidden the fact, that I am not a fan of haiku and only write them because I need them for haibun.

After a few pages of that, I decided to have a go at Ribbons, which is the magazine of the Tanka Society of America. I joined last week and they have already sent me a magazine. Even better, it is full of tanka.

There are some magazines I read that just feel like home, and others that don’t feel comfortable. Ribbons is comfortable, as is The Haibun Journal. There’s nothing much to see on that last link, as they don’t do anything online. I merely add the link to prove it exists.

While I’m talking about magazines and societies, I should mention that there are other good magazines, and that my definition of bad magazines is based on my own personal view rather than a proper procedure. I find it so much quicker just to form an unreasoning prejudice rather than a balanced view.

I will also say that I don’t like the process that the societies all seem to adopt, of running memberships from Christmas to Christmas. It’s a bad time of year to extract money from people and when they all do it at the same time it forces a decision on some people. Well, on me. I know there are reasons for this, but you would think that at least one would do it differently, just to make it more convenient for members. I suppose when the rest of your members are highly paid and successful (as all the writer bios indicate) nobody else ever finds themselves short of money.

Gatekeeper butterfly

I decided just to add random feelgood photos to this one. The top one may, in hindsight, fulfil that purpose for vegans.

Day 83

Who would have thought that I would have managed a post roughly every 24 hours for 83 days. And who would have believed that Day 83 would seem so much worse than 24th March? It does though, doesn’t it?

We put an engraved American coin up for auction last week and someone wrote to ask if we would accept £40. It was tempting, but would have been unfair on people who had viewed it and were wanting to bid. It made £9.99 so we lost £30. However, we retained our integrity, and I feel better about that than I would about taking £40.

Blossom is out and I am still having trouble sleeping properly.

Looks like this is just becoming a random load of thoughts. I admit that my posts are seldom well-crafted pieces of tight writing with a unifying thread and a satisfactory conclusion (apart from it being satisfactory that it has ended), but this is disjointed even by my standards.

I just had a letter from an editor. I submitted seven pieces. Three were accepted. Neither of the two I thought were my “best” work made the grade.

Last night I read a haiku magazine and I reckon that fully 50% of them fail to be good haiku according to generally accepted guidelines. This shows the flexibility of guidelines, the capriciousness of editorial opinion, and how bad mine must be if I can’t even get one in to a magazine where half of them are flawed.

When I get cremated I want them to stencil “Could do better” on my coffin. Those words accompanied each school report I ever had, and continue to follow me to this day.

The pictures of blossom are from a few years ago, and probably in April, not March.

I just found that you can search your photos by subject, if you’ve titled the pictures – an area in which I am deficient. It’s taken me over 2,600 posts to find that out.

Blossom at Wilford

 

 

Day 18

Day 18 passed in much the same way as Day 17, but without the element of anticipation that you get after a Sunday off. In that respect it was very much like Day 11. I expect that Day 25 will be similar.

It was also like Day 17, in that I have a few ideas for writing, but didn’t do much about it. The trouble with giving days numbers is that the passing of time is much more noticeable and there is nowhere to hide. “Next Wednesday” is quite a friendly place, in a soft and woolly future. “Day 26” is much sharper, and leaves you in no doubt that you have seven days to do something, and that when it arrives the deadlines are only five days away (the days leading up to Day 31 are going to be interesting.)

I bought 500 items on eBay last night. They were very cheap, just pennies each and will, eventually, help finance my collecting habit. Julia will be delighted when she finds out and will no doubt be keen to congratulate me on my financial acumen and the purchase of more clutter. That’s why I’m letting her know via the blog. I don’t want to be in the room when she finds out. I could, I suppose, conceal this from her, but she will eventually notice a big box of plastic tokens no matter what I do.

When I have  a few minutes I will prepare more posts on collectables to leaven the musings on mortality, boredom and the passage of time. However, despite all my attempts to put it off, I need to go for a blood test now. It’s not procrastination if you put it off because you have to do something important.

I had some haiku turned down yesterday, which means I am currently running with one acceptance and one rejection so far this year. The editor sent a longish email and included a useful link to help me do better. The problem I find with haiku is that although they are small poems they come with a lot of conventions attached (some call them rules, though this isn’t quite accurate) and I never quite manage to remember them all at the same time. It’s a bit like that hypothetical over-filled bookshelf – you put a book on one end and one falls off the other. That’s my brain . . .

The picture is a small Royal Artillery sweetheart brooch carved from mother of pearl. They are generally from the First World War usually, I’m told,  made in Palestine. I include it as it’s a new picture and illustrates my inability to stop collecting things.

Planning

I’ve just been reading LA in Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50. She is very organised and has all sorts of plans in prospect for next year. This is in contrast to me – I’m vaguely aiming for 100 submissions next year, reading 50 books and that’s it. The planning centres of my brain are not very developed. She has blogging subjects planned until April. I am, as you may have noticed, writing a blog post, but I’m not sure what I’m going to write about once I finish this paragraph.

End of paragraph. Pause. I could write about procrastination, or the amount of staring blankly that I end up doing when I’m supposed to be “writing”. I just drifted off to leave some feedback on eBay and look someone up on the internet. I’m like a small downy feather floating on the breeze – never quite settling.

We are steadily moving through the backlog of food I over-ordered fro Christmas, a situation not helped by  me ordering more for New Year. We have carved all the meat off the turkey crown and frozen it. Tomorrow we will be having turkey and bacon pie and apart from a couple of lots of sandwiches, that is the turkey done.

The planned Celery and Stilton soup[ has become Cauliflower and Stilton Soup as the cauli looked like it needed using, while the celery is still crisp.

Next, I will catalogue a few medallions for an article I’m planning and then will trawl my mind for five haiku I need for a deadline (tomorrow). It’s hard going at the moment, but I will get through. Then it’s just the quality that poses a problem.

I have shelved another submission I was planning for tomorrow and then start work on two submissions for 15th January. A target of 100 isn’t going to hit itself.

The Results Are In

This is not really a post, just an exercise in procrastination. I started writing it last night and left it for completion but had an idea for another post before returning to it.  I should be writing some haibun at the moment, but that isn’t going well. I started writing but wandered off to search Gray’s Elegy for a title, and ended up reading Lowell’s For the Union Dead, which is a fine poem but isn’t going to move my haibun forward. On the other hand, twenty minutes of staring into space and chewing a pen didn’t move it forward either.

I am now going to complete the post so that I don’t need to think about actually writing poetry.

It is now twelve months since I decided to take poetry seriously and I am in a position to discuss my 12 month rolling average.

Fifty six submissions made. Twenty eight have been successful, twenty one have been rejected and seven are awaiting a decision. Three of those have very little chance but I have a reasonable chance with the others. Even if none of them are accepted I am still on 50%, which everyone tells me is a good proportion.

This year it’s safe to say that I have written more, managed a publishable standard and have moved slightly out of my comfort zone by venturing into ordinary poetry and tanka, whilst trying a few new magazines.

In truth, I’ve done a little ordinary poetry before, though I did aim reasonably high with my choice of magazine, so I’m happy there. The tanka seem quite successful too, so I need  anew challenge. This year I will consolidate what I am doing (no need to get over-confident) then look for new challenges.

I also have to work on becoming more productive, but for the moment I am off to read about writing better tanka. It beats bashing away at haibun that won’t come, but is all about self-improvement so doesn’t count at procrastination.

 

 

 

Marmalade Hoverfly

8.23

I rose at 6.30, handed my car over for MOT at 6.45, decided to use my time wisely (reading blogs) and just went to answer a knock on the door. It was the car – returned with its new MOT Certificate. That is what I call service. If you ever need a car fixing in Nottingham, try Hillcrest Garage. I’ve been using them for years, and though they recently had to move, they are still a great garage.

I’m feeling a lot more alert than I was last night but have hit a new challenge -now that the car is back, should we go for a drive in the countryside or should I stay and write. I know what I should do, but Julia deserves a day out and we do have air conditioning in the car, which is more than we do in the house.

Decisions, decisions . . .

That was easy. We’re going out.First stop – McDonalds for breakfast, then I’m not sure what. If we go anywhere too nice it will be full people. If we go somewhere that isn’t crowded it’s probably not worth the trouble of visiting.

With six submissions in the pipeline I deserve a day out, but if we all took that sort of view nothing would ever get done. I have another submission in the bag and then there will be a bit of a struggle getting more done by the end of the month. I’ve been a bit lazy and haven’t kept up with the haibun writing – just done the haiku and the tanka.

Ah well, off for breakfast now – see you later.

A Small Success and a Digression on Auction Technique

I had a note yesterday to tell that I was on a 24 day streak with WP. The days pass so quickly! It only seems like last week that I broke continuity and it’s already back to 24 days. You know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t improve my writing and it doesn’t improve the blog.  It’s just a way of WP trying to draw you in – a bit like your dealer congratulating you on taking drugs for 24 days in a row.

Presence arrived today. I have a haiku and a tanka in there. Unfortunately it’s a print journal so I can’t send you a link. I’m liking the tanka form. It’s two lines longer than  a haiku and less restrictive, so it’s more fun. I’ve submitted two lots and had two accepted, so I seem to have the hang of them.  However, I won’t make too many predictions of success as I’ve been here before. Early success is often followed by a run of poor form before it picks up again.

This was quite a common thing when buying and selling antiques. You buy one without knowing much about it, you learn, you sell. Next time, armed with more knowledge and confidence, you end up paying too much, or not spotting a fault, and the second one proves hard to sell. Buying in ignorance is often best. I bought several bargains simply by putting my hand up at an auction when nobody else wanted something. As I’d never risk more than a tenner on this sort of bid, it worked out very well on several occasions, though there could be problems.

I twice bought lots thinking they were one box, and they turned out to be multi-box lots. Once I bought some toy cars and six boxes of unsaleable secondhand Christmas decorations. Another time, I bought a box of old pots to get a book and found they came with four boxes of mediocre amateur paintings. At least I was able t give the paintings to a charity shop. I couldn’t even give the Christmas decorations away.

Anyway, I digress.

It is now time to write some more and see if I can repeat my early success.

IT could be a lef. But then it could be a writing prompt . . .

 

A Worse Thing than Being Accepted

I didn’t realise there was anything worse than being accepted, until yesterday.

I’ve just had an acceptance and I am very annoyed. In fact at one point I was filled with rage. I sent in three haibun, each one elegantly and interestingly crafted and probably some of the best work I have ever done. I also sent in seven tanka to make the numbers up and see how the tanka are going. I’ve only just started writing them and have had one accepted, so they seem to be hitting the mark. However, they are just lightweight 5 line poems compared to the more serious business of writing haibun. They are also, let’s face it, a lot easier than haiku – two extra lines and fewer rules make for a more relaxed writing experience.

You can see where this is heading already, can’t you?

None of the haibun were required and one of the tanka was accepted. My first reaction was disbelief, then, as read the email again (because I’d clearly missed something first time) extreme annoyance.  I’d just spent the best part of a year on the haibun, editing, cutting, polishing and letting them mature (all the stuff you are supposed to do), and they were tossed to one side in favour of something that took me five minutes.

However, after sleep and breakfast I’m looking on it as just one more manifestation of the mystery of interaction with editors. I will put it down to experience, use it for the basis of a blog post and, eventually use it in  a magazine article about rejection. But most of all I will look at my work critically and try to work out why it took a year to produce a bad haibun. I used to be able to that in twenty minutes. I’m getting slower  . . .

 

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.