Tag Archives: tanka

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 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 97

I’m sixty-three years old and I just did something I’ve never done before.

New things are quite common when you are young, but I honestly thought that apart from a colonoscopy I had no novel experiences left in life. I suppose there’s still bigamy and necromancy but, to be honest, I prefer a warm drink and a spot of TV.

So, you ask, what did I do? I “checked all” on my ASDA shopping and pressed the “order” button. It took about ninety seconds to do the shopping. It’s not something I normally do because it’s supposedly bad for the diversity of your diet. However, it will be three weeks since our last  ASDA order so it’s not a real duplication. Ninety seconds to do a week’s shopping, and that included selecting the time slot. I’m impressed. Of course, by the time I’ve been informed that much of it is out of stock, I suppose it will take a bit longer.

I’ve just had another poem accepted. It sounds like the magic has worn off a little when I put it like that. I sent ten off, so I also had nine rejected, but it doesn’t sound quite so impressive put like that.

On the other hand, it’s a tanka, so it’s only five lines. I suppose a proper poet would only consider it a verse. Of course, a proper poet would say “stanza”. I’m not sure when this happened, they were definitely “verses” when I was at school.

Medal for the closing of the Central Ordnance Depot 1982 – it refers to the explosion in 1918 which killed 134 people. At the time it was suggested that the factory staff should be awarded a collective VC because of the speed they returned to full production.

Finally, in a day of novelty and adventure, I’ve been asked if I can do another talk at the Numismatic Society. There are two ways that you can take this. My first thought was relief, as it shows my last one, on the Peace Medals of 1919, wasn’t too bad. My second reaction was, obviously, panic. Fortunately it’s planned for the early part of 2023 so I have  a year to prepare. As you may recall from the previous one, that’s eleven and a half months to think and two weeks to panic.

My subject is “A Hundred Years of Medallions” and will be about my attempt to form a collection of medallions – one for each year from 1900 to 2000. It’s actually 101 years, but as nobody agrees when the century starts and ends I thought I’d avoid the argument and just add an extra medallion.

Magistrates’ Court Medallion – two new courts were opened in 1996 – Nottingham and Mansfield

There’s an obvious flaw in my plan. After three years of thinking about it, I’ve only just started collecting the medallions seriously. So far I have secured 44, leaving me with 57 to go. I’ll have more by the time the talk comes round, so there will be plenty to talk about. All I need is the slides and photos.

Talking of which, I can’t remember where I put the stick with the last presentation on it, so at the moment I can’t even remember how many slides I’m going to need.

The header picture is a bronze medal designed by Paul Vincze for the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Birth. The others have titles attached.

Royal Wedding Medallion 1947 – a time of national shame at the poor quality medallions that were being produced.

The Results Are In

This is not really a post, just an exercise in procrastination. I started writing it last night and left it for completion but had an idea for another post before returning to it.  I should be writing some haibun at the moment, but that isn’t going well. I started writing but wandered off to search Gray’s Elegy for a title, and ended up reading Lowell’s For the Union Dead, which is a fine poem but isn’t going to move my haibun forward. On the other hand, twenty minutes of staring into space and chewing a pen didn’t move it forward either.

I am now going to complete the post so that I don’t need to think about actually writing poetry.

It is now twelve months since I decided to take poetry seriously and I am in a position to discuss my 12 month rolling average.

Fifty six submissions made. Twenty eight have been successful, twenty one have been rejected and seven are awaiting a decision. Three of those have very little chance but I have a reasonable chance with the others. Even if none of them are accepted I am still on 50%, which everyone tells me is a good proportion.

This year it’s safe to say that I have written more, managed a publishable standard and have moved slightly out of my comfort zone by venturing into ordinary poetry and tanka, whilst trying a few new magazines.

In truth, I’ve done a little ordinary poetry before, though I did aim reasonably high with my choice of magazine, so I’m happy there. The tanka seem quite successful too, so I need  anew challenge. This year I will consolidate what I am doing (no need to get over-confident) then look for new challenges.

I also have to work on becoming more productive, but for the moment I am off to read about writing better tanka. It beats bashing away at haibun that won’t come, but is all about self-improvement so doesn’t count at procrastination.




Marmalade Hoverfly


I rose at 6.30, handed my car over for MOT at 6.45, decided to use my time wisely (reading blogs) and just went to answer a knock on the door. It was the car – returned with its new MOT Certificate. That is what I call service. If you ever need a car fixing in Nottingham, try Hillcrest Garage. I’ve been using them for years, and though they recently had to move, they are still a great garage.

I’m feeling a lot more alert than I was last night but have hit a new challenge -now that the car is back, should we go for a drive in the countryside or should I stay and write. I know what I should do, but Julia deserves a day out and we do have air conditioning in the car, which is more than we do in the house.

Decisions, decisions . . .

That was easy. We’re going out.First stop – McDonalds for breakfast, then I’m not sure what. If we go anywhere too nice it will be full people. If we go somewhere that isn’t crowded it’s probably not worth the trouble of visiting.

With six submissions in the pipeline I deserve a day out, but if we all took that sort of view nothing would ever get done. I have another submission in the bag and then there will be a bit of a struggle getting more done by the end of the month. I’ve been a bit lazy and haven’t kept up with the haibun writing – just done the haiku and the tanka.

Ah well, off for breakfast now – see you later.

A Small Success and a Digression on Auction Technique

I had a note yesterday to tell that I was on a 24 day streak with WP. The days pass so quickly! It only seems like last week that I broke continuity and it’s already back to 24 days. You know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t improve my writing and it doesn’t improve the blog.  It’s just a way of WP trying to draw you in – a bit like your dealer congratulating you on taking drugs for 24 days in a row.

Presence arrived today. I have a haiku and a tanka in there. Unfortunately it’s a print journal so I can’t send you a link. I’m liking the tanka form. It’s two lines longer than  a haiku and less restrictive, so it’s more fun. I’ve submitted two lots and had two accepted, so I seem to have the hang of them.  However, I won’t make too many predictions of success as I’ve been here before. Early success is often followed by a run of poor form before it picks up again.

This was quite a common thing when buying and selling antiques. You buy one without knowing much about it, you learn, you sell. Next time, armed with more knowledge and confidence, you end up paying too much, or not spotting a fault, and the second one proves hard to sell. Buying in ignorance is often best. I bought several bargains simply by putting my hand up at an auction when nobody else wanted something. As I’d never risk more than a tenner on this sort of bid, it worked out very well on several occasions, though there could be problems.

I twice bought lots thinking they were one box, and they turned out to be multi-box lots. Once I bought some toy cars and six boxes of unsaleable secondhand Christmas decorations. Another time, I bought a box of old pots to get a book and found they came with four boxes of mediocre amateur paintings. At least I was able t give the paintings to a charity shop. I couldn’t even give the Christmas decorations away.

Anyway, I digress.

It is now time to write some more and see if I can repeat my early success.

IT could be a lef. But then it could be a writing prompt . . .


A Worse Thing than Being Accepted

I didn’t realise there was anything worse than being accepted, until yesterday.

I’ve just had an acceptance and I am very annoyed. In fact at one point I was filled with rage. I sent in three haibun, each one elegantly and interestingly crafted and probably some of the best work I have ever done. I also sent in seven tanka to make the numbers up and see how the tanka are going. I’ve only just started writing them and have had one accepted, so they seem to be hitting the mark. However, they are just lightweight 5 line poems compared to the more serious business of writing haibun. They are also, let’s face it, a lot easier than haiku – two extra lines and fewer rules make for a more relaxed writing experience.

You can see where this is heading already, can’t you?

None of the haibun were required and one of the tanka was accepted. My first reaction was disbelief, then, as read the email again (because I’d clearly missed something first time) extreme annoyance.  I’d just spent the best part of a year on the haibun, editing, cutting, polishing and letting them mature (all the stuff you are supposed to do), and they were tossed to one side in favour of something that took me five minutes.

However, after sleep and breakfast I’m looking on it as just one more manifestation of the mystery of interaction with editors. I will put it down to experience, use it for the basis of a blog post and, eventually use it in  a magazine article about rejection. But most of all I will look at my work critically and try to work out why it took a year to produce a bad haibun. I used to be able to that in twenty minutes. I’m getting slower  . . .


Comments on Rejection

I had a rejection email a couple of days ago, which was quite good as it had several notes with it. In general it gives me plenty of information about what the editor is thinking, though actual “improvements” are not quite so plentiful. I will act on the suggestions, as they took time and effort to produce, but like several other of my published pieces, I will also write the one i want to write and try again. Poems are, after all, only words and, as I have said before, I have plenty of words to write another one. It’s not like every poem published depletes the stock of words for the rest of us.

The three main points are that I should show, not tell. Last time I sent something to that magazine the comment was that I should have shown the house being built. There was, in the entire poem, no mention of a house being built, and in real life no house was built. The editor imagined it as a result of the poem. This is both good and bad, and after reading up I found that telling is sometimes necessary. It’s one of those things you find when you have contact with editors – inconsistency, grey areas and matters of opinion. Usually, I tell too much and gradually edit it out as I condense the poem. However, this can take months and I wrote the poem in question in three days. The problem wasn’t so much telling not showing – it was rushing things and  not editing properly. I’ll hold my hand up to that one.

Then there was the question of certain phrases and whether they were “poetic” or necessary. One of them was a metaphor that linked with other things in the poem, but that wasn’t noted. I’m obviously too subtle. Another was a phrase that most of you would have recognise a my speaking voice. I tend to write as I speak and I don’t always sound like Shelly or Frost. This irks me slightly a it’s like I’m being edited out of my own poems. It’s happened with others too, so this isn’t unusual.

Finally, the suggestions seem to have reduced the poem to a short paragraph with a tanka at each side. Whether this is by accident or not, I’m not clear. Over the years haibun have become shorter. I presume the same is true for tanka prose, though I admit I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to write them. It seems to be a particularly American thing – a few lines of prose and a quick poem, usually with a tangential connection to the prose, referred to as “link and shift“. What they don’t tell you is that there are other ways of connecting the two elements.

I will stop there, lest I go on to explore other areas where editors may have blind spots dictated by fashion. I’m very close to 500 words now, which is a long post on a subject that is mainly of interest only to me.

My Orange Parker Pen

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

Time to Try Tanka

Breakfast was baked eggs. I put chopped spring onions, mushrooms. ham, tomatoes and grated cheese in an oiled dish, broke on three eggs and seasoned with black pepper. It’s a substantial brunch designed to last until this evening (with possibly a scone to keep us going) so I think three eggs is OK.

In the oven for twelve minutes (it wasn’t fully heated when I put them in) and Julia said hers was a little too firm for her tastes. She will get ten minutes next time because she is a barbarian who eats eggs before they are decently hard. I was happy with my 15 minutes as I like mine hard, and don’t mind them rubbery.

It’s a simple recipe, but one I seem to have forgotten over the years. Do you have recipes like that?

There are no photos as I ate it well before thinking of them. Maybe next time…

I managed to get three submissions off last night and this afternoon I had an acceptance from the batch sent out on the 18th. I sent ten haiku and eight tanka off to two different editors at the same magazine (they often have different editors for different things and allow you to submit to both) and have now had one accepted by each editor. I’m counting it as two submissions and two acceptances. If it had been one editor at the magazine I’d have only counted it as one. This is one way I’m upping my submission numbers. The other is trying new magazines. I’ve just submitted to one that holds the record for my speediest rejection. I thought I’d give it another go. The editor has changed and the so has the system – if they like it they accept within 14 days. If they don’t like it you can submit it elsewhere after 14 days. It’s a little imprecise, but simple enough as a system, and at least they aren’t going to set any new records.

Julia is making something complicated with chicken and marinades and stuff (she takes more trouble over the food that I do). It smells good, and she has just taken it out of the oven. Time, I think, to load this and eat.

I’m also sending two tanka prose off (the inelegantly named tanka equivalent of haibun) – one of them features crepuscular rays, hence the photo.