'Straight From the Haijin's Mouth' is one of the features that makes up my haikai column in a fine line, The Magazine of the New Zealand Poetry. This edition is from the March 2012 issue, and is reprinted with the kind permission of Laurice Gilbert, Sandra Simpson and Ernest J. Berry.
Straight From the Haijin's Mouth
I asked award-winning haiku poets, Sandra Simpson and Ernie Berry, 'What's it like to send your haiku out into the world?'
Sandra Simpson's answer: Selecting haiku to send to an editor or judge can be difficult – they’re all my babies, I love them equally.
As it turns out though, I love some more equally than others. With experience comes the knowledge that while some are “publishable” (but not outstanding) some are altogether better (and some we don’t discuss!).
Most editors like a set of 5-15 haiku which means I can try some poems that are a bit “different” in the mix. Re-reading submissions a month later is a good practice – the haiku often turn out to be not so great as I thought and go back through the editing process.
Getting to know a journal’s ethos helps, although editors can often surprise with their choices.
This haiku, for which I never had high hopes (thinking it was a bit obvious), was published in The Heron’s Nest and won a Touchstone Award for one of the best haiku published in English in 2010:
slicing papaya –
of her black pearls
The poems to which editors and judges respond are almost invariably (the above example notwithstanding) the ones where I have strived to be honest about the moment.
This haiku came complete while visiting Otago Museum and was a runner-up in last year’s HaikuNow! Contest (limit one haiku; a tough ask):
in the cabinet marked Mesopotamia a broken face
But I also have plenty of haiku that will never be published … and that’s okay. To write the good ones I accept that I have to write the bad ones.
Ernie Berry's answer: My first foray into the world of poetry was about age 5 when Aunt Haysl of Hay's Ltd in Christchurch saw fit to publish one of my poems in her weekly children's page of the Christchurch Star-Sun. 60 years later I started dabbling in poetry again as a retirement project in Mexico where the kindly editor of an American journal targeting snowbirds* was so impressed with my work that he appointed me 'poetry editor' and insisted I supply a new poem for every issue forthwith and recruit other poets from Mexico and California.
After returning to Godzone in 1993, a friend gave me a book of poetry titled Haiku Menagerie which proved a life-changer for me because it consisted entirely of 'haiku' a genre I'd never heard of till then but which catered nicely to my predilection for poetic brevity. I took to haiku like a duck to a frogpond and my first haiku was accepted for publication by an Aussie mag, Paper Wasp in 1995 and within 2 years I was being published in haiku journals in NZ, USA, Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Croatia and Argentina, etc., etc. Being published 'world-wide' and winning the odd contest was quite a thrill and has kept my nose to the grindstone of octogenarianism...
a child inspects
a child inspects
~second place in the ukiaHaiku Festival Contest 2008
* people from northern USA who migrate south annually to escape winter.