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Haiku Maven: Dark Side’s Higher Acceptance Rate?

hm_logo Dear Haiku Maven, Is it just me, or do editors prefer poems about the dark side of life? When I submit a group of poems to a leading haiku journal, although maybe only two or three out of ten deal with loss, pain, aging or mortality in some way, those poems usually get chosen. Could it be that editors find happy, contented, or joyful haiku to be too superficial and not deep or serious enough? Could it be that these editors are mostly older and concerned with aging and mortality themselves? Could it be that it’s harder to create resonance with upbeat material? Or could I be imagining the whole thing? From the Sunshine State

This is a timely question. Haiku Maven has been reading the newest haiku anthology, Haiku in English The First Hundred Years (Norton, 2013.) In its introduction, poet Billy Collins writes, “The best haiku contain a moment in time caught in the amber of the poet’s attention and the poem’s words. It is the only genre fully devoted to setting down a simple observation in the here-and-now so as to produce in the reader a little gasp.” Your query did not say that you write equally strong haiku, whether joyful haiku or darker haiku. How good are the joyful haiku you submit to editors as compared to those which garner a higher acceptance rate? When read in a workshop setting, do they produce “a little gasp” in the listener? Haiku Maven has been known to read a draft haiku collection manuscript or two. In deciding whether or not the haiku produce “a little gasp” in the reader, the quality of the publishable haiku is of paramount importance. You ask, “Could it be that it’s harder to create resonance with upbeat material?” Yes for some haiku poets and no for others. And this has nothing to do with the relative youth or old age of the editor. Finally, Haiku Maven would like to leave you with this thought: One haiku reader’s dark side interpretation may be another’s joyful appreciation.

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  1. “One haiku reader’s dark side interpretation may be another’s joyful appreciation.”

    For a decade, mostly in my 40s, there was a passing of a loved one almost every year – from three different generations in the family. It’s interesting to see now that some of the poems about everyday life that I post on my blogs that seem lighter, are actually rooted in those years. The changing light, hay bales, wildflowers, Lake Michigan, new growth from a tree half-broken. I want to record what sustains me – say thank you. Readers know and it’s interesting to learn some of the ways they interpret a poem. May well be different than what I thought. Blogging has helped me be more flexible and rest in the mystery a little more. The teacher-me always wants to be “clear” though, so always a work-in-progress. Can’t speak from an editor’s perspective or that of a poet who sends work to many places ( these days anyway).

    I appreciate the anthologies too. Interesting to reflect upon years “written/lived through,” history, and the possible future.

    Thanks, Ellen

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