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January 2017, vol 12 no 4

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Ray Rasmussen

Publication Venues, Rejections & Revisions:

Over the last decade, we’ve lost some of our haibun and tanka prose journals – maybe even one of your favourite places to submit your work. So some of us might be wondering what to do if your journal of choice no longer exists or, as bad, has rejected your submission.

In terms of places to publish your work, check the following website: Haibun & Tanka Prose Publication Venues

In terms of doing something with a rejection, revisions are the most important part of your work. Sure, some say that that spontaneous first draft has the most zip. Maybe that's true if you’ve been doing zen brushwork for 2 or more decades, then yes, that first, impulsive spash of paint on paper will be best. Few of us have been writing for decades and so that first splash of words always needs revisions and those revisions can be done without losing the original spark.

So if you’ve received a rejection:
• Don’t give up on the piece. Something inspired you. Find a way to tell your story.
• Read it out loud to learn where the prose doesn’t flow.
• Eliminate redundancies.
• Drop poetic embellishments (unless you’re a very good free verse poet).
• Junk clichés, haibun wants your own words.
• Ask yourself whether you’ve told the full story.
• Don’t be too clever with ambiguity. While readers may enjoy some level of obliqueness, provide work that they can make sense of, particularly without going to the Internet.
• Ask one or more colleagues/friends to tell you where they see problems. Beware of lists where people tend to provide only attaboys (heartfelt, but false praise). I’ve never seen a submission that can’t be helped along with a little feedback.
• Run your spell and grammar checks.
• With each issue of the journals you read, select one or two haibun and try to figure out what the writer is doing.

Then submit your revison elsewhere (unless the editor has indicated that a revision would be considered). As the list of publication venues above will show you, there are lots of elsewheres, each with editors with different interpretations of our genre and different biases and tastes.

Finally, consider what one of my favorite poets, Elizabeth Philips, says about revisions: call it the Setting Aside Process.

“A very powerful revision method involves setting aside the poem and NOT LOOKING AT IT AGAIN until you have written a new draft, either on paper or on screen. We often get trapped by what we have already written. So we “cheat” when revising, and just “retype” what we’ve written before, especially when we get to a line or stanza that we don’t know how to improve. We get attached to certain lines and phrases and then when attempting to revise the poem we can’t surrender what we are determined must be essential to the poem. Often when I do a blank screen revision I look back at the original after finishing a new draft and see that parts of the poem I thought were clever, and key to the piece, have fallen away. This allows me to get beyond my (very limited) conscious mind, and let my unconscious mind, where all the good stuff comes from, generate a new draft. If we follow the poem, instead of trying to lead it, then we can leap over the constraints that overthinking can place on a piece.”