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Seer of ghosts & weaver of stories

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Writing-induced insomnia strikes again.
Fire & Water
I'm up with it most nights these days. And, strangely, at least a couple nights a week, like tonight, are entirely organizational: firing off new inquiries, making new submissions. Between poems out to publications, chapbooks out to small presses, and a few short stories floating around, I have thirty submissions out at the moment. Thirty. I'm tempted to say that's an all-time high, ever since I've begun keeping exquisitely careful tabs, but I'm not sure. If I can forget about entering the RSC's poetry competition, then I can certainly forget about a magazine sub here and there. I fervently hope I haven't.

I'm looking at haiku in a new light these days. I admit I've had something of a love-hate relationship with them from day one. Most of the first haiku I encountered (in first grade: yes, my school district started us early on poetry) were translations from Japanese, and nearly all of them, except for the works of Bashō, struck me as far too placid, sometimes to the point of...pointlessness. Likewise, the trouble I've run into in reading a lot of modern haiku, especially ones originally written in English, is that the words seem strung together with more emphasis on hitting the correct number of syllables (a valid concern) than on poetic coherency. The result is frequently too abstract for my liking.

I've written very few haiku in my twenty-seven years, relatively speaking. There's the one that won the RSC competition, and there's the one called "Table" that was the result of premabast giving me that very word as a prompt. There's a sequence of seven all strung together that I wrote quite recently and is currently making the submission rounds. And there's the set-of-three also acting as a single piece that I wrote and submitted to a competition this morning. When I craft them, I find that I'm striving to preserve some sense of phrasing and continuity while still adhering to the strict 5-7-5 pattern. I also play with sparing internal rhyme, which, I hope, makes me think just a bit harder about overall construction. I don't ever want to discover I've written a lazy haiku.

I've become more fascinated with the genre than frustrated with it of late, and I'm wondering what other surprises it may bring my way if I continue to experiment.

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Did you end up submitting that sonnet you had mentioned to Rattle's contest?

I did indeed. "Moving Shakespeare's Bones" got shipped off to them later the same day I'd mused about doing so on your journal :)

My problem with haiku is that it really loses something in the translation, and I don't think many English speakers get what it's truly about. It's much, much less about meeting the structural/syllabic criteria than it is about expressing concretely something of the ephemerality of nature.

That last bit, too, actually - I understand that's the traditional purpose, but so few of them manage to stand out for me on account of that very fact, or at least partly on account of it. Maybe it's that most of the translations can't actually cope with what's there in the original language, but then again, I'd have a hard time believing that all translations fall short. Maybe most nature poetry just isn't my thing. I don't know. In the end, regardless of the reasons, I've never been able to find traditional haiku as profound as they're intended to be, and too many modern haiku written in English come across as stilted. Having come to these conclusions, I'm all the more determined to play with the form and see what, for me, will truly make it tick :)

I get terribly bored with traditional haiku, to be honest with you, but I get terribly bored with the modern English ones, too. I think there's things to be done with the form that neither stick slavishly to the original contextual intent, nor focus solely on the format. I just haven't seen many...

Which makes me rather enthusiastic about your determination to play with it. ;-)

I'm willing to go over by a syllable here or there, to be honest - although I admit to liking the challenge of keeping to the pattern. I tend toward a terse writing style to begin with; I rarely produce works longer than twenty lines at most, and I'd say my average is between ten and fourteen lines. I prefer to say what I mean in as few words as possible, yet still with enough art to merit the creation.

Perhaps I'll post some of them on severe filtering/lockdown tomorrow so you can see what I've been doing :) Er, later today. Goodness. It's 2 AM again...

I'd like that. Hopefully it'll give me good, happy things tomorrow, to make up for today exploding all over me, heh.

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...oh, I don't know. I think I'm going a little crazy.

Haiku are interesting little creations. And I can definitely imagine they are difficult to write. (Sadly, I've only written them in jest--with limericks.)

We did have some interesting and really good examples in my lit crit class recently. I'll have to see if I can dig them up for you!

Good luck with your submissions!

I've noticed that, too - in English, they're all too frequently used as humorous devices.

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Re: From "Handbook of Poetic Forms" (which is actually neat!)

Is "Apprehension" yours? Dear God, I love it.

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I have a similar reaction to haiku, generally. In theory, I like them; in practice.... eeeehhhh. I've always assumed, as someone mentioned above, that they lose something in translation. I'm curious as to what you'll come up with in your experimentation. :)

Stay tuned. Locked post forthcoming, once I stop feeling like I'm going to throw up again.

A question you don't necessarily have to answer, I'm just curious: how do you choose places to submit stuff to, aside from the obvious genre and format specifications? Do you only submit to paying publications or do you do author's copies ones as well?

I submit mostly to paying-only markets these days if I can, but I do submit to a handful of contributors'-copies-only ones if I know the people involved in some way - even tangentially. I know that publications that can't quite afford to pay yet need support in the form of subs to keep them going. Ouroboros Review is a recent example of this in my own publication credits: they don't pay, but they publish good work, and the magazine has a very sharp, professional edge to it. I consider that worthwhile :)

Interesting! Thanks for the response :)

Also get a feel for how much circulation a non-paying market gets. If the circulation is pretty decent, or if it's an online publication, it's probably worth it for the exposure :)

That's another good tip, thanks! I don't currently have anything I feel is quite ready for publication, but I have a sequence of monologues that I want to develop into short stories (because although the eventual plan is to work them into a play, that's a project far in the future, and one of the cool things about writing for theatre is the general "no reprints" rule doesn't usually apply). Your massive list of current submissions is one of my main sources of inspiration atm :)

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