Tag Archives: poetry

Day 170

I’ve been thinking about a subject for today’s post. It really ought to be a lengthy one as I have time on Sunday and most of my other posts are a bit short. I’ve also been thinking about poetry. So, poetry, a blog post and plenty of time to write it. Sounds like a perfect cure for insomnia.

Poets writing about poetry are really only interesting to other poets. And that isn’t guaranteed. There are worse things, I suppose. Accountants writing about accountancy isn’t going to be a riveting read either.

I will narrow the scope of my post slightly. Let’s talk about writer biographies as they appear in poetry magazines. I don’t mind the ones that run to two lines (though I’m not sure why the editors who specify that sort of length just don’t tell the truth and say they clutter up the magazine and use space that should have poems in it).

My standard bio is: Simon Wilson has been a poultry farmer, salesman, antiques dealer, gardener and instructor on a Care Farm He now works in a coin shop and wishes he had tried harder at school.

It is not always well received by editors but is, I suspect, more acceptable to than the version I would like to send: Simon Wilson likes writing poetry and thinks you should read it and mind your own business about his private life.

This train of thought started because I made the mistake of clicking onto a site with a variety of poet biographies. One of them was very motivational – a well-known poet and editor talking about his early days and less than positive start.  It is helpful to see how other people improved and coped with rejection.

The ones i don’t like are the ones that are full of self praise, particularly the ones that give a long list of publishing credits and include magazines that have been out of production for five years.

Speckled Wood

Maybe I should just have done my review of TESCO’s Buttery Spread.

To be fair, it does spread. It also comes in a handy plastic container.

Those are the two positives. Whether it’s buttery is an entirely different matter. It contains buttermilk which, as I recall, is what you are left with after you use the buttery bits of the cream to make butter. The word “butter” in this context makes as much sense as it does when you use it in butterfly. Neither of them contain butter and neither of them makes a particularly pleasant addition to a sandwich.

Now the photos make sense don’t they?

 

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 123

Day 123 comes and goes. I have two more poems accepted, pack parcels and make hash for tea. Things happen on the news and I am advised to try jackfruit by a friend.  Those are the essentials of the day.

There were 12 Spanish poppies out this morning, which comes close to doubling the number of blooms for the year. I have stopped counting, despite my original intentions, because the flowers seem to last longer this year and I( am having to make sure I don’t double count. I will deadhead again tomorrow and see how many heads I remove.

I may try some tinned jackfruit. I’m not particularly bothered, but it will mean I can put a stop to conversations like the one I had tonight. It’s fashionable, and it’s on a lot of cookery programmes, but it doesn’t really fill a need for me. It’s a bit like samphire – I tried it several times and then forgot it. I don’t like the taste and I don’t see why it has to be imported when we have plenty growing on the coast. It’s full of nutrients and it’s good to have some variety in my diet, but deep down, I don’t like the taste. You can add asparagus to that list too. It’s OK, but if I’m honest, I eat it for variety rather than pleasure.

We started eating more avocadoes for the variety, but we like avocado. This makes up for the carbon footprint involved in importing it. Global warming, as far as I know, hasn’t helped us grow avocadoes in the UK.

 

 

 

Day 118

I picked twelve empty stalks from the Spanish poppies today – the season’s total so far. There are five more in bloom today and they seem to have lasted better than most of the blooms do. I think one or two must have lasted two days now. late last summer we were lucky if they lasted six hours. I must monitor that this year and see if they follow the same pattern.

The Welsh poppy is looking good, and has a number of buds ready to take over the job of flowering. I’m not sure how long they last, but have always thought of them as quite tough. Again, I will have a chance to observe. I must make sure I end the season with enough seeds to ensure it spreads.

Meanwhile, having resisted sarcasm yesterday, I couldn’t hold it back this afternoon on the shop. There was an incident earlier in the week where one of my co-workers was, I thought, rather wasteful with some packaging. Well, today he excelled himself. Twelve items, twelve plastic sleeves. Then a board backed envelope and then two pieces of card. I maintained silence. I am, after all, just a cog in the machine. Then the printer started. He was printing three sheets of paper with screenshots of the goods he was packing. He could simply have put Banknotes (12) on a compliments slip but that wouldn’t have been wasteful enough for him.

“Why,” I asked, “don’t you just nuke a forest while you’re at it?”

He took offence at this.

My penultimate news is that my vaccination seems to have passed without incident. I had a slightly sore arm last night and woke up at about 6am this morning when I rolled over on it. It’s still slightly sore if I touch it, but, as I used to tell the kids when they did such things – don’t touch it.

Finally, cattails is out. I am on pages 83, 86, 118, 170, 173, 174. The last one is just a repeat of 170, which is the Editor’s Choice in the tanka prose section. Just thought I’d mention that as I slip from the page.

 

Day 100

I know there’s nothing mystical about the number 100, but it seems like a good  day to have a serious review of my titling practice. It feels like a growing panic is engulfing me as I see the days fall away, and though it’s undoubtedly quicker and easier, it also feels like I’m leaving the blog unfinished. On the other hand, when I write titles by number it hides the fact that some days I just can’t be bothered, wher5eas titles don’t hide it so well. By tomorrow I will have reached a conclusion. The conclusion could be that I carry on numbering, or that I start using titles again. Or simply that I can’t be bothered to make a decision. Watch this space . . .

Another proper step in my poetic progress has been taken. Nothing major, so don’t expect too much. It’s just that so many of my poems are just marking time – same sort of poem, same magazines, more of the same . . .

Last month I submitted some tanka to an Australian magazine called Eucalypt. It’s a well known magazine, which specialises in tanka. I’ve never submitted to it before, and I’ve never sent tanka to a specialiost6 tanka magazine before. Result – an acceptance.

Second result – a feeling that I have advanced a little further along the road to getting better. I know it’s not a very precise measure of either progress or my targets, but it does feel like progress, all the same. Of course, I’m now left wondering what I need to do next to feel more like a serious poet. In the 1950s I could just have worn a beret, but these days it’s not so easy to look distinctively poetic.

Day 61

Day 61 came. Day 61 went. I slept through the end of it and am writing this a little late. That’s the trouble with Julia being on holiday, there is no bustle and packing of bags in preparation for tomorrow. It was one of then better things about lockdown and something to look forward to when we retire. That and getting up when I feel like it instead of when the clock demands it.

Counting the days is becoming more difficult now that I have three months to consider. I will, no doubt, get used to it.

In poetry terms, Obsessed with Pipework is out, and I am in it. I can’t point you to a link because it is not online and I can’t quote myself because I should give them some time before I do that. Not sure how long as, unlike some magazines, they don’t specify. I will do it in a couple of months if I remember. I like OWP because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Nor does it let the process of not taking itself seriously become too serious, which is a fault of some magazines that try not to take themselves too seriously, if that makes sense.

Quality poems, captivating covers, laid back attitude and the editorial good taste to accept my work. That is an excellent magazine.

Today’s vegetable soup, which saw the end of several manky carrots, a fossilised parsnip and half a bag of ready cubed swede  from the supermarket, turned out to be quite good. It also had onions and chilli. It was golden beige in colour and quite tasty with little red spots from the chillies. I foolishly put my taste-buds out of commission during the cooking because the chilli didn’t seem to be flavouring the soup. I added more, then more again. Still no result. So I tasted a slice (I was using fresh ones from the shop). Turns out that the slice I tasted was a great deal hotter than the previous slices I had added to the soup.

Day 59

Early hours of Day 59. I had an email from an editor last, which made me irritable, to say the least. It featured block capitals and exclamation marks and various instructions. As block capitals and exclamation marks always make me feel like I’m being shouted at, and as I’d followed all the instructions, I began to think critical thoughts.

This is the second journal to start carrying on like a tin-pot dictator in the last few weeks and as I write for relaxation I can do without it. Americans, though supposedly laid back, decentralised and in favour of freedom, do seem to like issuing instructions, just like any other nationality.

I didn’t reply. There is no point.

Then I got the second email. It seems he was declining my submissions as they were two days late. They weren’t. They were two days before the deadline. It’s not a problem, as they are only words, but it’s annoying to be called unprofessional, which is basically what is happening here. So I have dropped him a  polite line telling him that I fear something has gone awry with the system. It may well be Russians messing with communications, but it isn’t me. It does, however, explain the previous email with the block capitals etc.

I am going to have to get a move on and get my submissions in earlier.

The question is, how do I count this for submission purposes? I’m inclined to count it as a submission, because I did the work. I’m not so sure about counting it as a rejection, because it wasn’t really rejected. It was hung up in the system and I’ve been asked to resubmit next month.

This is the third time I’ve had a submission disappear into a black hole that was not of my making. I’ve also had one disappear as a result of my email ineptitude when I blocked gmail (which could have been worse). The editor who got shirty with me with that one was English (I add that for the sake of balance – the Irish, Canadian and Indian editors all took it in their stride).

I like email. I tend to avoid ordinary mail now if I can. But sometimes it is a pain.

My Orange Parker Pen

Day 47

Most of my day was spent thinking about the things I should be doing. When I wasn’t procrastinating I engaged in displacement activity or eating. Julia suggested that I could combine two of my talents and write a book about procrastination. Or eating. And suggested, a trifle unkindly, that if I could combine eating and procrastinating it might be better for my waistline.

I told her I would consider the book, and that I would spend the rest of the day in research.

After lunch she went to have her hair done and when she returned, bearing Bakewell tarts, I forgot to tell her how nice her hair looked. In my defence I would say that two hours on eBay followed by tea and Bakewell tarts had dulled my normally tip-top husbandly instincts.

After that I did some more research. When you are researching procrastination, as I pointed out when asked if I had gone to sleep, it is often difficult to draw a line between research and torpor. Generally, if I have a notebook out, it is research.

Last night, when preparing myself for a serious assault on the world of poetry magazines, I found I had submitted the same poem to two different editors. It is the second time I have done this, despite my best efforts at organising myself. Fortunately they both rejected it, so it wasn’t a problem. I really must do better.

As soon as I finish here I am going to start recycling the rejected submissions from the last month. They have many good points, which I will try to accentuate, whilst removing the bad bits. This is the easy bit, after that I actually have to start working.

 

Day 43

I’ve just finished the first phase of planning my submissions for next year. So far I have 53 submissions in the planner, and I haven’t quite finished. I will have about 75 by the time I have finished. No doubt I’ll miss a few, but you need some sort of target, and it should always be slightly more than you think you can achieve.

Set a target too low and it’s not worth having. Set it too high and you risk demotivating yourself. Last year I made 48 submissions, though I was ill for a couple of months and would have managed around 55 if i’d been fit. Seventy five for this year seems fair as a target. I still need to add a couple of magazines that always reject me (I need a challenge) and some ordinary poetry magazines too. Life isn’t all about Japanese forms of poetry.

It feels good to have the plan done, even if it is incomplete. At last I have something to compare myself to, and it’s always easier to work when you have  a framework in place. Without one, it’s easy to drift.

When I look at the actual figures, I see that I met or slightly exceeded the targets for numbers of acceptances last year, being on target for haibun and a few over for haiku. I also wrote a few tanka, which weren’t included in the targets, as I hadn’t even thought of writing tanka when I set the targets. Then there were the six “normal” poems. There is no target for them as I just fit them in when I have time and they aren’t a particularly high priority.

 

 

 

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.