Tag Archives: haiku

Publication and Practical Poetry Problems

I’ve just had a haibun published in Wales Haiku Journal. You can find it here. I have a previous one published here.

I noticed, when re-reading The Duckpond (published about two years earlier) , that I seem to write about ponds a lot. Am I in danger of becoming type-cast, possibly even being known to posterity as The Pond Poet?

It’s another possible problem to add to running out of ideas, losing my ability to write and being found out. Because the problems of writing something good enough for publication aren’t enough, I need more fears to fill the time as I lie awake at night.

With coronavirus I can now fill that time with thoughts of death, losing my job and the collapse of society, but once we have a vaccine I can start worrying about how I will be seen by future generations.

However, this isn’t a post about worry, it’s about haibun. I’m currently in the middle of reorganising my computer files, as they had degenerated into chaos and I have been having difficulty finding things. This led to me submitting four poems to a magazine, then wishing I hadn’t.

One was an accidental double submission (which I think I mentioned before) but fortunately the other editor rejected it. Two of the others were not final versions. When I looked at them again, I realised that one was an incomplete version of a revision and one was a fully revised version but, unfortunately, one that had been further revised and improved.

I’m now waiting to get them back. It’s easier, I think just to get them back and suffer the ignominy of looking unprofessional, rather than try to explain and resubmit.

Hopefully the new system will stop this happening.

Then all I need is a way of filing haiku. Tiny little poems with no titles. I have hundreds of them, and they are refusing to cooperate. It’s like grains of sand pouring out of a hole in a bucket. They are all over the place and I have completely lost track.

They don’t tell you about this in haiku books. They tell you about lightness and simplicity and all that stuff but are completely silent on the subject of indexing, storage and finding them again once you have written them.

Thoughts on Rejection

I’ve had five rejections in the last month and have had several different reactions.

A feeling of being rejected was, strangely, not one of the reactions. A rejection, in this sense, is only the expression of one editor’s view on that particular day.

One of them was quite interesting, as it involved haiku. I don’t usually write them, despite them being an essential part of a haibun, and it’s something I should do more often. I’m resigned to them being rejected but every so often I submit some anyway to see what people think.

My most recent attempts bounced back with the news that only a third of submissions had any success, and telling me which two had been considered the strongest candidates. I don’t feel too bad about rejection when I know two out of three are rejected.

Two submissions bounced back within days, which I always take as a sign they weren’t even close. There’s not much you can say about that. I probably should learn to be more analytical and to send things that match the content of the magazine. I can do that in one case.

The other case was a guest editor, and it’s slightly more difficult to guess what they want, particularly when they don’t give you a clue. It can, of course, be tricky working out what they want when they do give you a clue. They told me they weren’t a good fit for that issue. I am as wise after reading that comment a dozen times as I was before I read it the first time.

I suppose it’s difficult finding ways to reject people without insulting them or giving them something to argue about.

One of the other submissions was returned with no further information. That was fair, as the submissions weren’t particularly good. It was another guest editor job and I’d sent two pieces which weren’t really finished because I thought they matched the style of the guest editor, an error I won’t make again. I hate being made to look unprofessional, even if I do it to myself.

The final one was returned with the observation that the haiku didn’t add depth to the prose as they were too similar. That’s a comment I’ve had before.

The other comment I have had before is that the haiku don’t harmonise with the prose and therefore fail to add depth.

It’s very difficult knowing what to do. Are your haiku too similar or too dissimilar? And will they be the same tomorrow? Maybe I just suffer from shallow haiku. It just occurred to me that my fascination for improper acronyms could have a field day with Shallow Haiku. As they generally come at the end, I could say that the trouble with my haibun is that they are Shallow Haiku in Termination.

Murder Your Darlings

‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’

Arthur Quiller-Couch

This is generally agreed to be good advice to writers. Such good advice, in fact that it has been attributed to a whole clutch of famous writers, such as Faulkner, Oscar Wilde and Chekov. Not that Wilde was ever likely to have said it, but he just attracts attributions.

What it means is that when you write something particularly fine it is probably wandering off the point and needs to be done away with.

I have a haibun like that. It is based on observation, it has been pared down, sent out, pared down again, sent out… You get the picture. Four times I have sent it out, hopefully having been improved each time, and four times it has bounced back. I’m beginning to feel that I’m the only one who likes it.

This is the version I consider the best one. I have removed several of the improvements because I prefer it this way. The finished version included Gordon’s Gin and Lemons, when the real life version featured supermarket vodka and limes. I just thought it warmed things up a little, as the idea of a fragile pensioner laying into cheap vodka is a little bleak. It clearly didn’t work. I also think lemon scans better than lime, but maybe that’s just me.

It might not be the text or the story, of course, it may just be that the haiku is weak. This has been a matter for discussion with several of my published pieces, and may well have played a part in the non-selection of others.

The way to kill a poem is to publish it on a website. Editors don’t want previously published work. If anyone has any ideas as to why it never made the grade, I’d be happy to hear them.

I don’t generally publish my own work, as you know, because I’m never sure about the quality unless a proper editor has selected it. In this case I’m making an exception because I’m looking for ideas, and making you all accessories to murder.

 

One Perfect Lime

The leopard print boots attract my attention. They are several sizes too big for the woman wearing them, and, I think ungallantly, several decades too young.

She is thin and almost translucent, with wispy white hair and the twitching neck movements of an egret.

Shuffling down the aisle in her overly large boots, and getting in my way, she carries a basket containing own-brand yoghurt and a bag of carrots. We go our own ways, but as so often happens we meet in another aisle. Her shopping has increased by one small wholemeal loaf and a bottle of supermarket vodka. She is selecting an unwaxed lime with great care, holding it up to the light and turning it to see all sides.

 

years have passed

since you last danced

one perfect lime

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral

Just a Quick Post

Time for another swift post I think.

Having been distracted by TV and the internet I’m starting a little later than planned and have to take Number Two Son to work in an hour.

I also have a haiku to re-write, which is more difficult than it sounds, considering that it only has three lines. I’m told that two of the lines say almost the same thing, which makes for a weak haiku. My plan was to rewrite one line. It seemed logical. It seemed a quick and easy fix.

It’s taken me 24 hours now and it’s not going well. Fortunately I told the editor it would take me a couple  of days, so I’m safe for now. It will be another 24 hours before he finds out he’s dealing with an idiot.

Sorry, I drifted off into haikuland there and spent 20 minutes rewriting, checked my emails, read some posts by other people and then realised I was meant to be posting.

I’ll do better tomorrow…

 

 

Phew, that was close…

I’ve been beavering away on the keyboard, watching TV and chatting to Julia (made possible by the absence of Number One Son doing a double shift) and I nearly forgot to post.

These are some photos from yesterday afternoon at Clumber park. I like the park, it’s just the service in the cafe I’m not keen on. I may have mentioned that.

The study of Japanese poetry must be rubbing off on me – crows in dead trees are pretty standard in haiku. So are herons.

I’m going to do my bit by making robins into a cliche too. They are great subjects, particularly as they come right up for a look at the camera.

 

I would have had more bird photos but a pair of pensioners drove up and started throwing bread into the lake – attracting all the birds and filling them up  with low-grade food.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Haiku Challenge – Day 66

I’m two thirds of the way through the challenge and it wouldn’t bother me if I never saw a haiku again.

I’m still plodding on, because I don’t want to give up on it, but it’s becoming a chore.

On the other hand, when I had to write thirty last night to catch up on the last few days I managed it in an hour, so my fluency has definitely improved. This is a good thing, despite the accompanying negativity.

And that’s my post for the day. I’m two thirds of the way through the challenge and it wouldn’t bother me if I never wrote another report on the challenge again.

 

 

 

Haiku Challenge – Day 44 Posting Challenge – Day45

I am still managing ten vaguely haiku-like verses a day.

My problem at the moment is tiredness and lack of subjects. I’m not able to much nature at the moment and crows, bare branches and yellow leaves can get boring in the end. If I’m bored it’s likely that readers will be bored too.

The haibun are not going ell either – I’ve written a few but can’t seem to edit and finish them.

It’s not easy finding the time to write as my normal quiet time is after 10 pm and at that time I’m mainly driving Number Two Son to work. Then I try working at midnight, fall asleep in the chair, wake cold, sleep badly, feel tired all the next day and feel guilty at my lack of achievement.

As for the posting challenge – I’m having to resort to quick posts to ensure I manage something each day. Short, quick posts like this one.

I must take stock of my life and my writing.

Off to take Number Two Son to work now.

Today at work we discussed starting a tribute band to take account of our various talents – and so OCD/C was born.

You have to write it like that to make it more obvious. We all laughed at it, though the customers mainly looked blank at us.