Tag Archives: poetry

Poppies and Poems

We had eighteen poppies this morning. Not as good as some recent days when we had over 20, but still quite good. If you say we average 15 a day (we have  second, small, patch too) in Junes, July, August and September, that’s about 1,700 blooms. That’s a lot of effort in flowering and, to be honest, a lot of deadheading too. And all from two patches of poppies which grow from cracks in the concrete. When we move I must try to save seed.

I am using a more structured approach to the day. I did 10 haiku this morning after arriving at work and emailed them to myself. I made a few notes on a submission I am making this evening and then started work. I wrote and the shop benefited from me starting early so I like to think it is good for both of us.

Did I say I was doing a Buson 100 (100 days writing 10 haiku each day.)? I honestly forget what I write in my notes, what I write in the blog and what I mean to write in the blog. Yes, I see I have mentioned it. I’m just over half way in days, and have a few poems in hand, so things aren’t looking too bad, though it’s till touch and go, as I can easily get two or three days behind, and it takes a bit of catching up.  This isn’t helped by losing a notebook with ten poems in it. However, as copy typing is very dull, half of me is happy to lose them and just write directly onto the screen. I’m finding it a lot easier to type haiku these days, instead of having to write them first. Typing is less stress on my hands too, so it’s all good.

Structure, planning, discipline. Bit by bit it seems to be working, though it’s mainly structure helping to develop good habits. Planning is OK, but could be better. Discipline seems to dissolve when I see an interesting link to follow and lose myself for an hour . . .

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Me and Roger McGough

I’ll go back a couple of days for this one.  I had an email yesterday. As is customary I have had three haibun rejected by the editor who always rejects me.  He thinks there were some interesting points but they aren’t quite there yet. He has been thinking that for around two years. I have submitted to him half a dozen times and have failed to find favour every time.  Two years of being “not quite there yet” seems like a long time – in that time I have had haibun published in six other journals.

I don’t mean I should be accepted very time I submit, or that the rejecting editor is wrong. Even the magazines that generally accept me don’t do so without the odd rejection, and once in a while I get a hard time from one of the editors demanding changes I don’t always want to make. When that happens, I get annoyed with myself for not writing to a high enough standard. That’s not difficult to cope with.

However, when you are consistently turned down by one editor you reach a point when you have to wonder if it’s worth the effort, and whether he is looking for something I can’t produce.  I’ll probably try a few more times, because each rejection is one more for the year’s list. I’m supposed to be aiming for 100 rejections and have only made 22 submissions so far this year. I’ve been a bit lazy recently, so need to up my game. It doesn’t do me any harm to get a few rejections because it does make me sharpen up, the only proviso is that I want to send stuff out that has a chance of success, and that takes time. Recently it has been taking longer than usual.

Anyway, that’s a rejection, and the lessons to be learned from it. I will now go back by another day.

My copy of Acumen arrived. I has two of my poems in it. They were shortlisted in February and accepted in March, so it’s been a while. I have become so used to the rapid internet world of most haibun magazines that this seems a long time. It’s the 100th edition and is bigger than usual, and is very glossy. To say I was pleased with myself would be an understatement.

When I opened it I found there were quite a few famous poets in there, Mimi Khalvati was on the opening page and Roger McGough was about half-way through. I’m right at the back, but it doesn’t matter, I’m still in a magazine with some famous poets. I’ve been in magazines with some notable haibun writers too, but none of them as famous as Roger McGough.

It took a while for me to calm down after that, which is why the Saturday rejection bounced off me, and why I’ve had to wait until now to write about it. It’s probably very un-Zen to be too excited about this sort of thing, so I also had to watch out I didn’t upset any passing haiku practitioners with my unseemly showing off.

Reading, writing, wittering on…

This is a post I wrote this morning. I arrived at work slightly earlier than usual and found there were only two parcels to pack, so that was soon done. I don’t access WP from the work computer, as I don’t want to blur too many lines, but I do sometimes check my emails, so I emailed this to myself.

After posting last night, I spent some time looking at poetry to see what I could do to improve. First stop was  a magazine that usually rejects my work. The editor does give me advice from time to time, which only increases my confusion. I don’t always understand what they say to me, and I definitely don’t understand why things identified as faults in my work are acceptable in the work of others. I found several examples and spent half an hour studying them for clues as to what makes them publishable when I am not. I looked at all sorts of things apart from the writing and the content, including subject, voice and style, and I couldn’t se what the successful pieces had that I didn’t. I’ll have a go in a few months and see what I can see.

Better informed, but mystified, I moved on. If I keep seeking, I am sure I will find something to explain it, and even if I don’t , I am bound to learn something and improve, simply by looking at things in greater detail.

It’s that pond again. The haibun that it inspired was eventually split in two. One half was published. The second half formed the basis of another haibun I am still working on.

I found two by someone from the UK and decided to look him up. I do that sometimes. He writes in several forms and has published nearly a thousand pieces in 20 years. He belongs to two writers’ groups, reads in public and plans all his poems out. I’m already sensing several differences in our approach. I don’t like the idea of writers’ groups, don’t like speaking in public, and although I do think of planning I rarely do any. I say “rarely” but if you were to pin me down on detail, I may alter that to never. But I do sometimes thing of planning, which is nearly the same. However, despite the differences there is one similarity – we keep writing, learning and submitting.

My normal planning process is to think “I’m going to write something.” I may have to look at that again.

At that point, or some defined point in the future (generally after eating or watching TV) I write. Then I write some more and try to add something at the beginning that is also mentioned at the end. If you do that it looks like you had a plan. Then I take all the bad words out – long words because they are just showing off, adjectives because they are frowned on in poetry, and clichés – shards is one of the main ones that people go on about but myriads, hosts and cerulean are also unwelcome.

Then I leave it to rest. Some of my published work has been resting for a couple of years, with a gentle nudge and a prune now and again. Sometimes I add a bit, but mostly it’s a process of reduction. Then one day I send it out into the world. It often returns. So I cut, shape and send it out again. If it comes back too many times, I think about reusing bits of it.

It’s sometimes difficult to judge. Some poems go out four or five times and are eventually accepted. Others go once or twice and get parked. It all depends on how much confidence I have in them. One went out five times before being accepted, another was accepted on its fourth attempt (four days after being rejected by another magazine).  As Chuck Berry said ” It goes to show you can never can tell.”

An attempt at artistry

 

Where Roses Fade – a Haibun

This was first published in Drifting Sands Issue Six, December 2020. I was looking through the book where I print out my published pieces ( a trick my father in law taught me – when you need a boost, you can always flick through it). I discovered I’m actually several months behind with it and started poking around the internet. I quite liked this one when I first wrote it, and I still do. This isn’t always the case.

I probably linked to it from the blog when it was published, so apologies if you have seen it before.

Here is the link to the full issue.

 

Where Roses Fade

Thirty years ago, I rambled through the Leicestershire countryside and saw villages which had collections of crumbling farm buildings and odd nooks of unruly weeds. Stands of tall nettles often concealed rusty machines, and rosebay willowherb blazed in the sun. Now they are tidy, and iron butterflies decorate the fronts of houses built where real butterflies used to feed. They have become development opportunities, and gaps have been filled. Small neat houses and barn conversions proliferate, with block-paved drives and shiny cars. Drinks are taken, and conversations held, where pigs once grunted and chickens scratched. Snouts, though, are still rammed firmly into troughs.

tidy
but the roots of weeds go deep
unnoticed

 

Comma Butterfly

The Second Shot

I wrote a 350 word post earlier. It was about the GP surgery not having my blood test paperwork sorted despite me organising it three days ago. Then it went on to discuss the pharmacy and the lie they told me about texting me when my prescription was ready this afternoon. I feel you’ve heard the same complaints before so after ridding myself of the burden, I consigned it to WP limbo and decided to move on. I moved as far as the cooker, then as far as my seat in front of the TV. There I stayed for a while. I am now back writing a new post, and hoping that it’s going to be more interesting than the previous list of complaints.

It is ten months since I started taking poetry writing more seriously and in that time I have made 39 submissions. It’s going to be a bit of a slog raising that to a hundred a year, because I already feel that I spend a lot of time writing. I’m in the middle of a good patch at the moment – plenty of successful attempts with an even spread of rejection to keep my feet on the ground.

When I get a cluster of rejections I always start to think I’ll never be accepted again, and when I have  a good run of acceptances I worry that it can’t last forever. It is also the case that after a run of acceptances the next rejection hits harder. The mind of a writer is a strange thing.

I need two sets of submissions in the next couple of weeks – one to a magazine where I have had some minor success and one where I have had no success at all since a change of editor. I had a look through my list of pending/unfinished/work in progress and decided that there is very little there of any merit. I need a surge of enthusiasm and a flash of inspiration to set me going again.

Stuck for a Subject

It’s 23.22 and I have made a late start. I have also made two false starts, one on the subject of writer biographies and one on the subject of aiming for 100 rejections.

I have a strong dislike of biographical notes in poetry magazines, because I really don’t give a toss for the lives of the various poets that appear in the magazines I subscribe to. I don’t read them because I am interested to know that A spent twenty years in teaching or B has a degree in Creative Writing. I read them because they write something worth reading. I am at one with the editors who don’t do notes on the grounds that the magazine is about poetry.

I’m not against talking about myself, as you will know if you read the blog regularly, but I am against writing about myself when I’m trying to get poetry published. There are too many dull biographical notes, including ones that are just lists of publications, and I don’t see any need to add to them.

Anyway, I have nothing interesting to say.

I’m currently deciding on the look for the photograph one magazine has asked me for. Do I take a selfie as I am? That will, as Julia points out, establish me as a man in the tradition of W H Davis, the tramp poet. Though, strangely, he always looks well-groomed in all the photos you see of him. Or do I  shave my head, trim my beard and end up looking like the idiot brother of Ming the Merciless? It’s not an easy choice, and it doesn’t change my writing, just the opinion people have of me.

Then there is the question of the 100 rejections. It’s really about upping the number of submissions and aiming high. That, so far, is where I have failed. I only made four submissions last month and so far this month have only submitted one thing. I have several other submissions in the planning stage but I doubt I’ll manage more than four this month, as I don’t have the finished material to send. It hasn’t helped that I’ve slowed down this month, just when I really needed to get a move on.

When I started writing poetry I didn’t realise that so much of my writing life would revolve around haircuts, autobiography and planning. I thought it was all about writing. Silly me.

Robin on a Fence

Chaffinch on the same fence

 

A Few Bits of News

The arthritis drugs aren’t working as well as they have been and my fingers are starting to play up. I wonder if it’s the time of year as they did this to me last year. As the world slipped into lockdown my major concern was getting dressed with half my fingers out of action. It’s staring again and this morning I had to use a hot water bottle to get my hands working when I got to the shop.

he anticoagulants aren’t working well either, as shown by my recent test results. They are wandering about all over the place and have become rather too high recently – meaning I’m now in the zone where I could have  a problem with bleeding. Not so bad for a shop assistant but when I was gardening this would have been a nightmare. I used to bleed badly after pruning pyracantha at the best of times. It would probably look like a horror film if I did it these days. I’ve had a leter from the hospital about this – ity seems they are seeing more erratic results in lockdown, and that levels generally seem to go up. That’s a relief, as I have been trying to work out why it was happening. Seems I’m just part of a lockdown phenomenon.

Do you remember that I was short-listed by Acumen magazine a few weeks ago? I prophesied that I would fail to make it from shortlist and my prophesy turns out to have been wrong. I have two poems accepted for the next issue and have just checked the proofs. I’ve never been accepted by a magazine that has proofs. I must definitely be going up in the world.

I think I’m going to have to stop writing about my poetry writing because things are going too well at the moment and it’s getting a bit close to showing off. I’ll wait for some bad news before writing about it again. To be fair, it should only be a week or two before I get cut down to size.

Jentacular Spectacular

I imagine that all proper writers are currently walking in the countryside, writing , or at work wishing they were doing either of the other two. I am having my customary Monday off, and sm wasting my time playing Nine Men’s Morris on the computer.  However, I have taken a grip of myself and am now writing after squandering most of the last 100 minutes on games and emails and checking eBay.

The post has just arrived so I will pick that up and on the way back I might as well put the kettle on. I’m not expecting anything good in the post so it will only be bills and circulars, but any displacement activity is welcome to a keyboard loafer.

On the way to the kettle I noticed we had a single wrap left in the bag. We have been keeping a few in as they stop us running out of breadlike substances for packed lunches. One isn’t much use though, They make a very good substitute for an oatcake so I thought while I was waiting for the kettle to boil I might as well stick a bit of bacon in this one and thus clean up the kitchen a bit. I added mushrooms, because we have quite a lot of them too, four small tomatoes which are going a bit soft, and a spring onion, cut in half and then sliced lengthways. When cooked and wrapped it did indeed make a passable substitute for an oatcake. I now feel much more able to face the day and do some work.

My Orange Parker Pen

The post wasn’t quite useless, as it contains my copy of Poetry Review. The outer, which looks like it is compostable, though it doesn’t actually say so, contains the magazine plus a number of extras – a copy of Poetry News, which I normally skim and recycle, a flyer for the Winchester poetry Prize, which I won’t enter, a Bloodaxe Catalogue and the Winners’ Anthology for the National poetry Competition. I’ll read the Bloodaxe catalogue and dream about being in it, and I’ll read the anthology so that I can feel affronted that, once again, I didn’t even make the long-list. However, after my recent success in the BHS competition I am content.

Can anyone answer a grammar question while you are here? Is it a Winners’ Anthology, as it doesn’t belong to them, or is it a Winners Anthology because its’s an anthology by more than one winner?

You can read the winners here.

And, of course, there is Poetry Review. It’s a serious magazine full of serious poems. It contains essays, translations and reviews. I confess that I don’t always read it all. I’m going to read some of it before lunch, then I’m going to write Limericks. Once my mind is receptive to lightness again I have haiku to write, as I am suffering a haiku deficiency and my haikuless haibun collection is crying out for closure.

 

 

Twelve Ideas

Lat night I wrote a list of ideas when I was looking for subjects to write about.  I ended up with eleven, which grew to twelve when I decided to write about writing a list of things to write about. Ideas, as I may have said before, are not difficult to come by. I could probably have thought of 20-30 more, but I find that having too many ideas is not always a good thing. If you have too many the quality tails off and you never get to the end of the list.

I meant to start using them last night but by the time I’d written the blog post and edited work in progress, I ran out of energy. This morning I started with some reading and commenting and have just looked at the list un front of me.

Twelve ideas became ten because two are undecipherable. That became  eleven when I remembered what one of them was, and twelve when I decided that writing about bad handwriting could replace the idea I couldn’t read.

As I said, I don’t lack ideas, just the ability to turn ideas into results. I think I may have told you we once had a meeting on the farm and someone said, with a perfectly straight face, “My talent is having ideas, rather than doing things. If you want any ideas I have plenty of them.”

If you’ve ever been on a committee I think you probably agree that talk and ideas are never in short supply. One person putting one idea into action, that’s what’s in short supply.

On that subject, what happens next? Well, I have twelve ideas. You are reading the result of one of them. Four of them have moved on to be the prose sections of haibun. Three of them now have lines of poetry attached. Two of them will become blog posts. One, I have not developed, but will do. The twelfth, which was going to be about the trials of being a prince with a trophy wife and a massive trust fun, doesn’t really appeal. I am going to cross that one off. Sometimes you realise you just don’t want to develop an idea.

The next stage is typing the haibun prose and the first drafts of the blog posts. Some results will be good, some not so good. It’s all a process of natural wastage. Eventually twelve ideas will be turned into a few finished pieces and the rest will be used as spare parts for other things.

 

My Favourite Day

It i now just after midday and it is probably time to take stock.

I delivered Julia to work this morning. Traffic was heavier than usual, which was probably due to the return to school, though it could just be that Monday is usually busier in general. I have no way of measuring, but the queue in a couple of places was a little longer than usual.  It might just appear heavier because I was expecting it to be. I really ought to devise an accurate system of measurement.

On the way back I went to Lidl as we need bread and I like their bakery. I’ve been avoiding it lately, but you have to go out at some time.

As usual, I observed some selfish parking. A single man in a Range Rover parked in a parent and child space (we didn’t have them in my day, we just had to learn how to control children and shopping at the same time!) I don’t see why anyone needs a Range Rover if they live in town. I don’t see why Range Rover owners can’t walk a few yards extra. And I definitely don’t know why he felt it necessary to park at an angle so that a corner of his vehicle jutted into the corner of the parking spot next to him. Somehow, I always asu8me that if you have the money to buy a big car and fuel it that you should know how to drive. I am clearly wrong.

Again, in the absence of a proper measuring system I can’t say this was the worst parking I’ve ever seen. How does it compare, for instance, with a small car parking across two disabled spaces whilst playing loud music? So many variables.

I bought the usual selection – sandwich baguettes, chocolate brownies, ham offcuts for sandwiches and mini cucumbers, which Julia likes with her sandwiches. She actually ordered some plants yesterday to grow her own this summer.

I then sat down to write. I finalised a selection of haiku, which needed to be sent before the 15th. That is now done. I’ve submitted to that magazine before and expect I will be making a contribution to my target of 100 rejections quite soon.

After that I settled down to some “ordinary” poetry. At the moment I’m writing by setting ideas down and adding to them. When they are about the right length I check I have everything I need – theme, detail, ambiguity- then I start pruning and refining. I have two or three on the go, in various stages of completion and it’s feeling good. I’m pinning a lot of hope on my ordinary poetry to bring in the 100 rejections.

I then twiddled around with ome tidying of folders, made a cup of tea, browsed the internet and skimmed a book that arrived last week. I answered a phone call from a very nice lady who wanted to help me extend the warranty of my washing machine. Regular readers, who know we use the launderette for washing, will realise she was unlikely to succeed, and thi proved to be the case.

That’s it for now. I’m going to make lunch, using a liquidised vegetable stew and I will then start rounding up some haiku for another submission. If I get that done, I will have a go at refining some haibun and writing a couple of new prose sections.

After I pick Julia up I will have come full circle and that brings us back to the chocolate brownies. I will miss my Mondays when I have to go back to full-time work.

Orange Parker Pen