Life is a bit dull at the moment. It’s like my normal life but with added tedium and a dash of boredom thrown in. Of course, if it were exciting it would probably be worse. Excitement, in the form of boundary disputes, car breakdowns and pandemics, is not good either. I know I should be grateful for the monotony, but when the most exciting event of the week is watching Sharpe on TV, there is something wrong.
I really need to do more writing, send more submissions out and start playing editor roulette again. There’s nothing quite like a rejection letter for rousing the passions as yet one more philistine fails to appreciate your endeavours. Ans similarly, there’s nothing quite so worrying as an acceptance, meaning ta the whole world is about to laugh at you when they see your work and realise it’s rubbish.
Currently I don’t have too much out, just two competition entries, one lot of haibun and an article. The competition entries are doomed, they always are. The haibun are currently under consideration and the article is, I think, doomed. There’s going to be very little in the way of excitement coming from there.
There isn’t much coming up in the next month in the way of deadlines, though the month after that is going to be busy. I am preparing my material for March and April, but I am, unfortunately, not the most industrious of men unless I have a deadline coming up.
I was reading an essay by a writer of haiku recently, in which he notes that most of his haiku have been in progress for about a year by the time he gets round to finishing them. He is quite clearly a patient and focussed man. I, of course, am not, and should probably go back to writing clerihews.
Ambitious PM Boris Johnson
had trouble keeping his pants on.
Thanks to Dominic Cummings
he now looks a bit of a muggins
I have now managed to do a few things on yesterday’s list.
I have rung the Pharmacy – got straight through this time – and given them my PORN number. If you wonder what that is (and it probably isn’t what you’re thinking) you can read it in yesterday’s post.
I have also reset my OU password and had a quick look at where I am. Having done the courses What is Poetry? and War Memorials and Commemoration, I am 31% of the way through Approaching Poetry. I haven’t done anything since 16th December, when the great password purge locked me out and ignored me over Christmas, so I’m going to have to redo the 31% to get back up to speed. I may well go through the others too, just to brush up.
As a third thing, which I should have done, but didn’t list, I have sorted out my first published haiku. I needed it for something else and also needed to check submission dates for Wales Haiku Journal. Having done all that, I thought, I may as well give it an airing alongside a couple of almost relevant photos.
I have been working towards deadlines of 25th and 31st January, thinking I had plenty of time. I don’t. It’s 21st today and I am badly prepared for 25th. I have the material, but it needs a final polish. I’m actually better prepared for the 31st, having two of the three submissions to go. Only the third needs work, the main problem being that I haven’t decided which is going to be the third piece.
With that in mind, I had better go and do some work on that instead of messing around with haiku and photos.
It was all going too well. I made lunch (which included Ryvita crispbreads instead of ordinary bread), I washed up and I cooked the evening mal ready for when Julia returns. It’s panhaggerty, though I’m not going to melt the cheese on top – too much fat, too many calories….
This proved to be the high point of the day.
First, as I opened the fridge door a pyrex plate slid out and smashed on the floor. There were two cold sausages on it, so I invoked the ten second rule and threw them into a pan of hot fat to kill any bacteria from the floor. That meant I had to have a sausage sandwich. So, smashed plate, glass all over the place and my diet gone for a Burton.
As I made the sausage sandwich I looked down on the work surface and realised that I’d left the second layer of bacon out of the panhaggerty. I had to prod it down without disturbing the layers too much. Then, forgetting that I was only wearing socks, I walked across the badly swept area where the plate had smashed. Fortunately the bits I found were only small and they didn’t do any damage, just gave me a bit of a surprise.
Next, it was over to check emails as I ate the sandwich. Part of the sausage fell out o0nto the carpet. I really have been pushing the ten second rule to its limit.
I had two replies from editors. I always think that a quick reply indicates a rejection so I ate the sandwich first. No point in spoiling a good sandwich. The first on was an acceptance, though I sent off ten haiku and three haibun and only had one haiku accepted. It’s not great, but as I spent two years trying to get into the magazine, I’m happy to have had anything accepted at all.
The second one was from my nemesis, the editor who has never accepted anything I’ve ever sent him at either of the magazines he’s been editing when I’ve tried. In a way it’s a comfort to know that in a n ever changing Covid epidemic he still won’t accept any of my work. He did send a few pointers, which is always useful, and always a good sign when an editor takes the time to do it.
The only problem is that I left room for the reader to interpret, as we are advised to do, and he seems to have interpreted it in a way that I didn’t intend. Not quite sure what this means, but I’m left with the impression that my lack of clarity means I’m an even worse writer than mere rejection suggests. I spent several downcast minutes wondering whether to laugh or cry. Then I started laughing and made a cup of tea.
Saturday 2nd January has proved to be a quiet day. After writing my first post of the day I edited some of my notebooks, browsed some on-line shops and washed up. I moved on to editing my notebooks – typing out three haibun and twelve haiku. They started off as seven haibun and twenty two haiku but some of them were rubbish. I think I must have written one of the haibun while I was asleep as it made no sense at all, and one of the others was so tedious it was probably the one that had sent me to sleep. Several of the haiku were just alternative versions, so one of them had to go.
And, I confess, two of the haiku were unreadable. I think I’ve covered this before. My writing is so bad I( cannot always read it shortly after I write it. Some of these were weeks old and I didn’t have a clue what they had originally been about. I came close to abandoning a haibun too, but there were enough legible/guessable words for me to reconstitute that one.
My Orange Parker Pen
That was all the useful work I did. I made lunch after that, using a pack of four small avocadoes. One, which I had tested, was ripe. The other four turned out to be a bit less than ripe, so needed dicing more than mashing. Julia wanted hers with a poached egg so I boiled the water, swirled it round and gently tipped an egg into it. I think the egg may have been a bit old, and the water may have been swirling a bit too fast as the whole thing seemed to explode in the minute I was away from the pan. I just had a pan of highly dilute scrambled egg. The second, was better, but I cooked it in the bowl of a metal ladle just to be on the safe side.
Fried eggs would have been better but a poached egg seems de rigueur in smashed avo circles so who am I to disagree. I had prawns in mine with a dressing made from ketchup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and black pepper, because I am firmly rooted in the 1970s.
Back to the writing for a moment – for the benefit of new readers, I write using a fountain pen whenever I can, because the words flow better. Even a cheap biro is better than typing. I can rarely type haibun and haiku when I am composing. Magazine articles and essays are fine, but poetry seems to demand a proper writing implement. That’s why I have to accept losing a percentage to illegibility. Better to lose a few that way than to sit staring at a computer screen writing nothing, or writing things which I then edit into nothingness. It may seem inefficient at first, and I have tried to streamline the process, but it just doesn’t work any other way.
For the rest of the day I watched TV, chatted to Julia and dreamed of pizza. Then I woke up, cooked tea (we had steak as a New Year treat) and started writing this.
Failed Haiku Number 61 is out. Mine are about 40% of the way down under “Simon Wilson”. I’ve got so used to my accidental penname on WP that I feel very dull having an ordinary name. I could make it easy for you by just printing them here, but that doesn’t seem fair to the editor and the other writers. Scroll down until, you see the red feather – I’m a few pages under that. Or you can wait for a month and remind me – I will copy them and paste them in the blog once the new issue is out.
I’m now in what I find to be the toughest bit of the process. Writing is simple. Editing it into something readable isn’t too bad as long as you remember not everything is useful and allow yourself to throw stuff away. Editing for submission – the honing and perfecting, is a bit tricky, as I’m not a great judge of quality. Editing after submitting is quite easy – the editor suggests things and I do them. It’s about publication. I will agonise about my artistic integrity later – there are plenty of words and nothing to prevent me writing another version of the poem I want to write. This one is an example – it’s half the poem I originally submitted and misses out what I thought was an important point. However, it is also good like this and the cut down version is more elegant, so I’m happy to make the cuts.I have, however, rewritten another version of the longer poem, which will be submitted to a magazine this month. Even coping with rejection isn’t the worst bit. It’s an inevitable part of writing for publication, so there’s no point taking it personally.
A Tranquil Pond I once wrote about.
No, the most difficult bit for me is submission. I was sure I’d written about this in the last few days but I can’t find it so I may merely have thought about it, or I may have edited it. Sorry if I’m repeating myself.
Once I have things written and (in theory) edited to near perfection, I have to send them out. There are nearly always more places to send poems than I have poems to send. I have seven places for submissions in january. This means I need 16 haibun and twenty haiku.
In theory I have around 40 haibun ready to go, but in reality some of them aren’t good enough to go. A few of them have been returned by one or more editors, so it’s not just me who thinks that. I have, sensibly, about twenty, but then I have to decide which one suits which magazine. The best ones could go almost anywhere, the les good ones need to be placed where they will be most appreciated. At that point I start to ask myself if I should send anything apart from the very best. It’s like a massive circle. Eventually it all sorts itself out (a looming deadline tends to help concentration) and I start on the next lot.
I’ve now one over a thousand words, which I always think is too many, so I will leave it there.
Two days ago I published a link to my latest published haibun. That night I had an email to discuss some changes to a submission I’d made just before Christmas. I’ve made them so I’m hoping for an acceptance there. Then last night I had a n acceptance for four poems. They are senryu rather than haiku (based on human nature rather than nature) but the line is blurred in English language Japanese-style poetry. It was a bit unexpected as I’ve never been much good with the short poems and, to be honest, never expect much. To have four accepted at one time is close to being unbelievable, and puts my total of short poems published (well, theoretically published – they won’t actually be published until next month) up from two to six, which is a big jump.
It’s quite a good way to end the year – all I need to do now is find a good way to start the New Year.
It goes to show what happens when you set your mind to something. I had a rest at the beginning of the year. I had had a series of rejections, one of my favourite magazines closed and there was a change of editor at another one – a man who has never accepted anything from me, and continues to accept nothing from me. I admit I did give up for a time, but you can’t keep a good man down and at the end of July, after a lapse of nearly a year, I started submitting again.
Twenty submissions. Nine acceptances. This includes an acceptance from a magazine that turned me down three times previously.
The moral of the story is never give up. And if you do give up, remember that you can always start again. It’s not meant to be easy.
This is a lesson that can be applied to many things, and one which I really ought to remember, because I’m very bad at letting things lapse.
Latest News – just had confirmation the changes are acceptable and I therefore have another acceptance. This is a good end to the year.
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.
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.
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.
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.