Tag Archives: poetry

More Troubles, Plus a Poem

Logged into WP this morning – it wouldn’t let me in. I had to reset my password. Feeling annoyed and persecuted? Yes!

Read comments, replied. OK.

Came back at 8am – read a post, commented, clicked – all OK. Commented on a second post from same person – wouldn’t let me in.

Currently still locked out and still annoyed.

Cross? Yes.

Back to work tomorrow so half happy at recovery, half sad at loss of free time. However, if you cough and splutter and  sleep through much of it, it’s not all productive anyway.

Today, in terms of poetry, I have extracted six more Haibun/Tanka Prose that I had lost track of, which is good. Have read a book about writing poetry. Fell asleep. It’s a repeat reading of a book I originally marked as 3/5. Most of the examples used are from the poets own writing and are said to be prize-winning. I’m losing faith in poetry prizes.

This is a haibun I wrote a few years ago. It was a prize-winner. Well, it was commended and I got a certificate emailed to me.

Falling Into Place

years pass
children become strangers
—his new world

Jigsaws became an important part of our lives. First, as conversations became more difficult, we used them to pass the time. Later we used them to stimulate Dad’s thinking and slow the progress of the condition. Finally we used them to measure his decline. A man who once ran a company struggled with a jigsaw designed for a toddler. My sister bought new ones as they were needed, each with fewer pieces than the one preceding it.

He had been an active and successful man, and thousands of events had formed his life. Gradually they faded away. This frustrated him in the beginning but as he sank into the strange new world of dementia he came to accept it as a comforting place. I was happy to see him become contented. Then, one day, he asked me who I was.

the mirror cracks
a fractured smile

When we cleared his room my sister picked up the nine-piece jigsaws and suggested we donate them to the care home. She checked with me.

You don’t want them, do you?”

Not yet.” I said.

Back on WP I still can’t get into the comments. I’m going to have to get on to tech support. Normally I don’t have issues that last this long and it is getting very irritating. You could say it’s a first world problem and not as serious as starvation or infant mortality, which is fair. But I am paying a significant amount of money for my WP plan and they don’t always provide value.

Wollaton Hall, Nottingham. Or Wayne Manor in Dark Knight Rises. Read the link to see Gotham too.

The Power of Positive Thinking?

From January to August this year I made 22 submissions. In September (by the time I have finished two more which are nearly ready to go)  I will have made 11 submissions.

Whether it’s because of recovery from Long Covid, a recovery from self-doubt or because I read The Power of Positive Thinking, I don’t know. But it’s been a productive month.

So far I have had news of one short-listing and three acceptances, so it’s working out OK. It will be two or three weeks before I get much news, as editors normally wait until the end of the submission period before making their decisions. I know that the percentage of acceptances may be a little down, as I’m now submitting to new journals, or ones where I’ve been unsuccessful before, but it’s looking good.

Of course, a lot of things had to fall into place for this to happen, and it may not happen again for a few months. One was that I had to be producing. Two is that I had to have a month with plenty of potential. According to my list, it will December before I get such a month again, so I will have to spend the next couple of months building up a body of work. I’m hoping to avoid a situation like I had this month where I open up work that is “ready” to go and find that it hasn’t been completed. I think I mentioned that in an earlier post. My apologies for repeating myself.

So, to recap. I have just spent most of a post waffling on about writing again, which is often quite dull. On the other hand, my life is dull and this blog represents my life, so you knew what to expect when you started reading.

However, I have also provided and example of how positive thinking made a big difference  to my productivity. This is a lesson that can be applied to any area of life. You may even apply it to doing something useful or profitable. Both these aspects of positive thinking have escaped me but, looking on the bright side, writing keeps me happy and out of Julia’s way (the recipe for a long and happy marriage).

I now feel less dull and more like a public benefactor. See – I said it made me feel happy.

Julia picked the last of the tomatoes today. They have been small but very tasty.

Expect another post later. I am feeling full of words.

Two Poems from the Past

I keep saying I will put some of my poems in the blog, but never quite get round to it. I just found a few at the bottom of my email box. They were first published in Acumen in May 2021. One of them was on  the page facing  a poem from Roger McGough and I felt quite famous for a while. They are not particularly cheerful, for which I apologise, but writing something serious is an occupational hazard of being a poet.

When COVID struck in 2020 we just thought it was another flu. When the idea of a lockdown was first mentioned we were in the middle of Norfolk, heading for the Suffolk coast. The poem, The First Week is written about that time. The other one was a poem originally written after my mother died, but repurposed after my father died from COVID. When we stopped at the Garden centre on the way home (see the blog post) we had intended seeing him. By that time he was locked down and we never did see him again.

Here they are.

The First Week

We didn’t know what was to come that year, the lack of holiday,
freedom and fresh air. Walking on the shore, shingle ground underfoot.
Aldeburgh is not a restful beach. In the distance we saw a house in the clouds,
and the nuclear power station nestled on the edge.

We stopped at the stainless steel clamshells, changing shape as we
drew nearer – seabird, shell or boat. Slipping from one to the other,
clever design. Punched through with letters – I hear those voices
that will not be drowned.

Back in town, amongst the living, we passed the place where the pier
used to be, queued for fish and chips with people fleeing London to their
holiday homes. When we set off we had no idea that this would be
a week in history remembered for so many wrong reasons.

Eating in the car park at the end of town, we saw concrete cubes,
the left over tank traps from another war. Further along, a village the
waves washed away and the Martello Tower that protected the coast
from invasion, but could not stop the sea.


New Normal

Is this how it ends? A shaded room, light filtering through curtains,
and an on-line fight for breath.
At home, surrounded by familiar things, I hear the magpies chatter,
as I watch my father fading in his final, silent scene. I feel I should be
there, and dwell on my regrets. The scent of brewing coffee fills the air.
Only one visitor allowed: I let my sister go to say goodbye. In my
imagination staff monitor and measure and make notes, passing through
my mind like helpful ghosts. Machines make noise. I’ve heard it all before and
can supply the sound effects the computer cannot play. Death at a
social distance. It is the modern way.

Later, at a distanced service, dismal poems will be read,
to say you are just waiting in another room and are not really dead.


Water Lily


The Day in Retrospect (and Soup)

After lunch arrived the activity of the day became a little slower. In fact, for one of us it slowed down to gentle breathing pace interspersed with cups of tea and suggestions from Julia that it might be a good idea to wake up.

So far I have done a bit of washing up and finalised three submissions for The Haibun Journal. It’s not what you’d think of if you had to define the term “workload”.

Currently I’m making soup as a change of pace from editing. I’m going to write this post whilst the soup simmers. One pot is Tomato, Lentil and Chilli. The other is Curried Yellow Pea soup.  Yes, it’s welcome to “What Does Simon have in his Cupboard Tonight?”. I’m hoping they will see me through three lunches and at least one main meal. To be accurate, that’s my second hope. My first hope is that the yellow split pea soup works. I’ve not made it before and the peas take a while to cook. I’m hazy on recipes (just adapting my normal process of boiling and blitzing without bothering too much about the rest of it. My concern at the moment, apart from proportions and cooking time is that the recipe I’m using as a guide refers to “vibrant, spicy, yellow soup”. Mine is red. That’s because I used curry powder instead of spices. Hopefully, by the time I’ve blitzed it and added turmeric and lemon juice it might be yellow, though as long as it tastes OK I’m not overly concerned.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Carrot & Ginger Soup

The plan is to use soup as a replacement for sandwiches at lunchtime as sandwiches tend to involve bread, cheese, and pickle. Or carbs, fat and salt as they are better known.


The Great British Sewing Bee has ended for another year. I won’t spoil the ending for you but the winner was the one we suspected it would be. You can generally tell these things weeks before. It’s not generally the standard of sewing but the favouritism of the judges that gives it away. Fortunately the judges’ favourite also produced the best dress of teh final so it was all OK this year.

The soup has turned out alright. It’s a bit under-seasoned as a result of my decision not to use stock cubes but no problems apart from that. Even the Yellow Split Pea Soup came through with a recognisable yellow colour. The lentils have thickened the tomato a little too much but nothing a splash of water won’t fix. Yellow split peas are £1 a kilo, which should do eight or ten portions of soup. It tastes nice and it delights my sense of economy.

Carrot, Parsnip and Swede Soup


The Power of Planning 2

If you have come straight here, you my need to go back to what is Part 1. However, it isn’t listed as such because I didn’t know it was going to be  two-parter when I started. Or even when I finished, to be honest.

hat happened was that I drifted off at a tangent and didn’t realise I was going to want to revisit it.

So, the poetry plan. First we need a target that is Specific. We will go for the acceptance of 50 Japanese style poems and 25 “ordinary” ones. That’s four a month for the Japanese and two a month for the others.It’s not a huge target, as I’ve already had thirty one accepted in the last ten months.I’m thinking that I will end the 12 months on about 40. Fifty is not a big jump from there. The twenty five is a bigger jump, as I haven’t submitted any fr a couple of years, but at two a month I should be able to do that. To be more specific I am going to go for 20 Haibun/Tanka Prose, 20 Tanka and ten haiku. I’m not very good at haiku so that is probably the biggest challenge.

That’s specific done. Measurable is easy enough – acceptances of poetry submitted  in the months of August 2023 to July 2024. It can be a bit tricky measuring poetry as the lead time after acceptance can make counting tricky, which is why I’m counting acceptances.

I’ve already covered Achievable in the Specific category – none of the figures I’ve quoted are outrageous and I’m sure the Japanese figure is going to be realistic as I hardly submit any haiku at the moment. The other figure, the twenty five is a bit more speculative, but not unrealistic. I have lost count but I think when I was submitting free verse a few years ago I had bout ten accepted by decent journals.

My Orange Parker Pen

Realistic already seems to have been fully covered from the writing point of view. From the publishing point of view, there should be enough openings to get this number of poems published. There are some magazines where i do badly, as in always get knocked back, but there are enough to take fifty and I will just have to up my game and try harder to crack the others. That’s the thing with targets – with targets I try different magazines, without them I tend to withdraw to my comfort zone.

Time? Twelve months. I assumed that from the beginning.

I will now need to set my diary out for 12 months, including all the likely magazines and submission windows. Then I will have to remember to keep a total and compare it to the plan. That’s it. Simple.

Now let’s see what happens.

Stone on the Floor






A Pond in Poetry

Burntstump Country Park, Notts

First Published in Wales Haiku Journal Autumn 2020.

I’d alter it slightly if I were submitting it now, but always feel that once they are released into the world I shouldn’t tinker.

As published, it was about a third of its original length, the rest dwelling on the decline of great country houses after the Great War. I suppose a lot of poems have  a similar back story. The pond in the pictures is the pond I write about, though the yellow flags are just out of the picture. I may have done this one in the blog before – sorry if that is the case.

What the Water Sees

At the end of the woodland path a pond waits in the sunlight. It has been there for a century and a half.

Purple-flowered rhododendrons tumble down one bank, doubled by their reflection in the water. Today it is quiet, disturbed only by birdsong and the movement of water voles. It is a different place at weekends. Parents and dog owners shatter the peace with their yelling and the ducks are pelted with volleys of bread.

The pond remains unchanged. The scent of wild garlic drifts from the woods and a moorhen fusses round a stand of yellow flags.

a place in history
the shape of a vole
in water


Burnt Stump Country Park

Time for a Change of Pace

Here’s a Tanka prose from a while back. I thought it was time for a more relaxed posting. It’s tempting, after my recent reading of a book of poetry criticism, to write about the poem. But I won’t, because it won’t improve anything.

This was first published in Ribbons, in Winter 2023.

The Shadow of the Red Kite

Simon Wilson, Nottingham, UK

The autumn sun warms my back as we sit in the old stable yard. My wife outlines her plans for the day and I run my fingers over the grain in the silvery surface of the weathered tearoom table. Our tea and bara brith arrive. Translated from the Welsh, bara brith means speckled bread, referring to the dried fruit that is its most noticeable feature.

Three wasps also arrive. Two fly away as my wife flaps her hand at them, but one lands on the table and stalks my food. It hauls itself over the rim and begins to gorge on the juicy centre of a raisin. My wife tells me to chase it off but I don’t have the heart. It is September and soon it will die. I can spare a little dried fruit for a fellow struggler.

She breaks off the conversation and points over my shoulder. I turn to see the distinctive silhouette of a Red Kite overhead. When I was a child, it was a very rare bird in the UK, and survived only in Wales. I remember the combined thrill and disappointment I experienced on a family holiday when I was ten years old–the profile and the flash of red that denoted a kite, but at a distance so great I could hardly see it, and never quite believed I had seen one.

kites in the sky
and mist on the mountains
with you beside me
if this is all life is
it is enough


Red Kites at Gigrin Farm

It’s Dull and it Features Soup


Don’t say you weren’t warned . . .

As part of my new start I have reorganised my folders to make my writing more efficient. It nearly as useless as reorganising my sock drawer but it’s all about small changes at the moment. I’m hoping that a few small changes will be enough to give me a start.

There are two soups simmering on the hob. It will be mushroom tonight and spicy carrot and parsnip for several lunches. From this you can probably work out which vegetables are in plentiful supply. It looks like vegetable stew tomorrow too.

I’ve returned to my roots today (literally, in the case of the soup) and am looking at “ordinary” poems today. There are too many rules to writing haiku and the like and I’m feeling more relaxed now. I think I’ve covered this subject before. So many rules, so much “guidance”, so many editors laying down the law. In the end you think more about the rules than the words.

It’s just  a temporary thing until I adjust my thinking. I’ve allowed myself to get lost in a maze of other people’s making. It’s a funny thing, but the editors who have the most to say about what a haibun should be, are ones for whom I have little respect as poets. They are the ones that cause me the problems. The other dozen I deal with are all excellent individuals who are always ready to help.

It’s just human nature that I have become hung up on the others.

Even after a break of just a few days I’m already starting to plan a return to haibun. However, with well over 100 published Japanese style poems published, I don’t have to worry about publication. I can worry about writing well. (Note that I will still be worrying whatever happens). The problem came when I was worrying about quality and about being published. It would be nice to do both, but more relaxing just to write for enjoyment.

It’s a bit like my WP experience. It would be nice to write a popular blog which led on to fame and fortune, but it’s quite nice just to be able to write one and exchange comments with a loyal band of readers who don’t mind multiple blog posts about soup and my dislike of modern life. Success is not about fame and fortune, it’s about learning that Maine is the best State (or so Laurie tells me) and that a flying bird of the day is an essential part of the day.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Running out of Steam

At the moment, I feel a bit empty and devoid of inspiration (see my last post).. After days of worry and effort I decided not to submit anything this month because I didn’t have much to show poeope, and what I did have didn’t seem very good. There’s no law that says I have to submit every month, so I relaxed. For a few hours I felt much more creative, but after that the difficulties returned.

Unfortunately, I’ve been doing less and less over the last couple of years, particularly the last few months. In fact, this is the second time in four months I have decided not to submit anything. At first I put it down to Covid and the infection I had a month before Covid (I always forget the actual name, but I managed to struggle through that.

The current problem is, I think, that I am trying too hard. I’m worried that I need to up the quality and it is making it harder to write. Plus, as I worry about quality, my internal editor kicks in and things I would have considered acceptable now seem sub-standard.

It’s like the pottery students.

I’m sure I’ve told this one before, so sorry if you remember it. As I get older I ramble more and repeat myself. It’s an internet story, so it probably isn’t true. Even if it is true I doubt they would be able to do it these days.

Anyway . . .

A lecturer told half his pottery students that their marks for the year wo0uld be based on the weight of pottery they produced. No mention of quality, subject or technique – just weight. He told the other half that their marks would be based on them making one superb pot.

Guess which group produced the highest quality pot? That’s right, the ones who had been told they would be awarded marks based on weight.

It seems they set to, producing pots in a relaxed manner and, concentrating on quantity, became good potters because of they gained a lot of experience. The other group, trying for one perfect pot, never managed to work to the full extent of their abilities because they over-thought it.

I used to work by throwing words onto paper and then shaping what I ended up with. I always had work to submit and it seemed to be OK as plenty was published. Now that I try to write better poetry, with more technique and complexity, I am finding it much harder and nothing much seems to measure up.

Tomorrow I am going to clear out a lot of my work in progress and then I’m going back to my old ways – lots of words and less self-criticism. Let’s see what happens.

Monday Off and a Freewheeling Mind

I don’t know if it happens in America but on UK Quiz Shows they often ask contestants about themselves instead of getting on with the questions. And the contestants seem, these days, to find it almost impossible to answer without starting “So . . .”

It’s something I have noticed over the last few years. I assume that either they didn’t do it a few years ago, or that I didn’t notice it. It is very irritating. To start “Err . . .”  as the brain picks up speed is human frailty, but starting “So . . .” just signals membership of a pervasive fellowship of irritating TV contestants.

Talking of irritants, I see that there has been a large number of complaints about bad language an episode of Love Island. I would have thought that the language was one of the least offensive things about the show. I’ve only seen clips of it on Gogglebox but the concept, the contestants and the general level of conversation is all dreadful too. Coming from a man who watches a TV programme about watching people watching TV, this concern with quality content may seem out of character, but I assure you, I do have standards. They are low standards, and Love Island fails to meet them.

I will leave you with a couple of poems. They were first published in Eucalypt 33.

the letter
from the lawyers
on the mat
lit by a sunbeam
—floating dust

that morning
in the coffee bar
I had no plans
to meet my one true love
—you said the seat was free

They could be reversed and read as a pair, I suppose, but that’s not how they were written. As the exotic beauty of the second poem has just given me a coffee and two fig rolls for elevenses approximately 42 years after the events described in the poem, there have clearly been no lawyers involved. For the sake of accuracy, may I add that there was a mutual friend sitting at the table too, I am not the sort of suave lounge lizard who finds it easy to approach strange women in coffee bars.

Coconut macaroons and hilarity in Bakewell. Can you see a theme developing?