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Haiku Maven: Special Treatment

hm_logo Dear Haiku Maven, I was recently named haiku editor for a new online journal. A friend of mine sent me 10 haiku to ‘look over’ before submitting them to me. I don’t think this is fair to the other submitters. But I have heard other editors do this all the time for friends. She is a good friend of mine. What should I do? Put Upon

Dear P U, Haiku Maven believes in a level playing field. It appears that your friend is trading on your friendship. This is never a good idea. Haiku Maven thinks you have two options: You could ignore the email or you could just email your friend another copy of the submission guidelines. You may lose a friend but you will keep your integrity.

Haiku Maven offers advice about awkward situations involving haiku poets. The word maven comes from the Yiddish meyvn, meaning “one who understands.” Please use our Contact page to send a question. Haiku Maven will select a pseudonym for you based on your question. Click this link to see the Haiku Maven archive. Feel free to leave comments.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Of course, the poet that sends haiku to a friend may not be looking for publication, but just the merest hint as to the rightness of the direction, or path they are following. Wentworth-san is a sagelike guide in this area, and many other editors are sympathetic to poets who wish to venture off trail…some of us are solitary, it is the woods, the notebook, the tea…the golden brew…fairness sometimes means breaking all the rules, ignoring deadlines, taking the late night phone call…standing in the rain with someone who needs you to…


  2. Am sure (unless of course it’s your publication) you were
    invited to edit the publication. Hopefully your friend isn’t one
    of your 450 Facebook friends either.

    If you and your friend norally critique one another’s work, then,
    that’s fine, and/or you can always start a writer’s group. As an
    editor if you are invited to write a commentary to a submission,
    then do so, if you feel incline.

    Everyone is different: some editors will never dream of offering
    a commentary, some poet’s want you to either accept or reject
    their work, some poets will not ask for a commentary in fear this
    will be a burden to the editor, etc., etc.

    You can always make concessions too, there isn’t a right way
    or a wrong way per submission. Just follow the guidelines set.
    If you do not want to read poems previous to a submission, make
    that clear within the guidelines. And, if that is what you want,
    steer clear of all online workshops.

  3. Madeleine L’Engle shared so generously about her life and art. It took a long time for her classic novel, “Wrinkle In Time,” to find a publisher. She wrote of her “decade of failure.” She continued because she simply had to write.

    Madeleine also wrote about how sometimes in life we think in terms of either/or, and the answer is both/and. This is from memory, so I’ll mention there is an official website for her, if others wish to learn more.

    So I also feel things can be worked out so there is no conflict between friendship and integrity. Communication. Might take some time but worth the effort.

    Regarding feedback, blogs are great for this. I enjoy the independence, while also valuing the perspective of editors. Letting haiku rest for a time, and then rereading our work is helpful too. I often see later on that the emotions I felt when writing a poem were greater than my craft. But maybe I’ve learned a little more about craft in the meantime. Still grateful for the gift of the poem. And once published, it has its own life. Am I really ready to let it go?

    I appreciate all the wisdom shared here and the honest questions.

    Recollections of editors also brings to mind Phyllis Walsh (1928 – 2012). She founded HUMMINGBIRD Magazine of the Short Poem in 1990. Kind and supportive. I received “An Anthology Issue: September 1990 – June 2000” (Vol. XXIII, No. 1 * June 2013). CX Dillhunt is the current Editor and David Kopitzke is still the Art Editor. And there are others on the staff as well. Once upon a time Phyllis began, and now others carry her dream forward.


  4. I agree with what has been said, so far. Would just add that it may make a difference if there are submission rules for the publication that only allow for a single submission during each “reading period.” In that case, “trial balloons” might be considered unfair to others, who have only the single opportunity to submit. As has been suggested already, a true and consistent bias will eventually work against the publication.

  5. I concur with Patrick Sweeney. I had help, encouragement, and advice from Bob Spiess (Modern Haiku), and also Francine Porad helped too (Brussels Sprout). This was out of a genuine desire to help a fledgling writer.

    I’ve been an editor for Haijinx and Notes from the Gean; and I’m a current editor for Bones Journal; and Lakeview Journal; as well as an editor for a number of anthologies, and my only intention is to create a good issue, a good journal, or good anthology for readers.

    I can’t imagine a ‘friends journal’ being anything but obviously slanted and of less value for the poetry reading public. It’s the overall public, whether longterm fans, or beginning to come back to poetry etc… that’s paramount. Plus I’m always excited about new voices in haiku, tanka, and related genres, and creating a dynamic publication.

    Personally I don’t see the point of a pre-submission, I consider every submission on the basis of the work, not the name. I have many friends, as well as acquaintances, in the poetry writing world, and would be as pleased and delighted to see their submissions as I would from a new voice in haikai literature.

    It feels like the new haiku editor of this new poetry magazine has either been put upon by a friend, or it could be just inexperience from either side. If the friend sent those ten haiku to be looked over, I can only suggest that they are the submission by default.

    If the friend isn’t an experienced submitter of haiku and were really that unsure of their own work, then support them as an editor. As long as the magazine benefits, and that everyone is shown due courtesy and interest in their submissions, it should all work out.

    As an editor it is tough to turn down work from a friend, or acquaintance, and I’ve never got used to doing that, and try to be as helpful as possible. But in the end, most editors are also writers, and have to expect some of their work to be turned down at times.

    I would just enjoy your time as a haiku editor, the first time is something to treasure.

    warmest regards,


  6. I remember all the help and guidance I got from Robert Spiess, the rewriting and the re-submitting that went on…he was a teacher, a master poet who only desired to see another thing of beauty added to the world…this was well beyond acceptance and rejection, …and later Michael Welch helped me understand haiku punctuation, both men extended themselves, I’m certain, only out of a love for the art and joy of seeing a good haiku come into being. Editors help everyone. I have been coached and helped by Hall-san and many other great poets and editors…if a friend sends some haiku and wants some feedback, be grateful he or she trust you with the sacred moments of his or her life.

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