Tangram, Tangerine Dream

On Success

I’ve had around 130 poems appear in print, (magazines and anthologies), or in online publications, whilst others have appeared on the radio or in film. Plus one collection (Landings, still available from my publisher or directly from me).

So I have had good levels of success, that is, when I have managed to get my act together.

However, there are lots of magazines that I’ve wanted to have work appear in, but where I have only had rejections, (or even in some cases where I haven’t even submitted as I haven’t felt my work is good enough). And there have been plenty of years where my submission levels have been spasmodic at best.

So that top-line number isn’t as impressive as it might seem. That’s one advantage of age. You can appear to have had a lot of success compared to those whose writing ‘career’ is shorter!

I also know lots of writers who don’t submit anywhere, and have no inclination to do so. Some of them are very fine poets. There is no right or wrong here. Maybe in my case it’s my ego (or what I still have of one) pushing me to send stuff out. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve always done this, however erratically, and it’s just habit, and something that I’m not going to stop doing now.

The holy grail for many is to get a poetry collection in print, published by an independent publisher – as opposed to being self published – not that there is anything wrong with self publishing – it worked for Eliot, Yeats and plenty of other famous poets after all. But being published by someone else at least means that they think the writing is OK.

Most people who write poetry, (I don’t define myself as a poet), spend much of their time wrestling with the question ‘is it actually any good?’. From my perspective, whether in terms of a collection or an individual poem, it is nice to get some external affirmation that you aren’t writing utter dirge. Well, not always, at least.

The joys of self-doubt!

When I’m submitting poems I tend to send them out 6 our 7 times and then start getting twitchy that they aren’t as good as I hoped they were. However in some cases it may simply be that I’ve sent them to the wrong place. As an example of this, in December I had 3 poems accepted by Dreich, a well known Scottish magazine, that had been previously rejected elsewhere 6, 7 and 10 times respectively.

And I have just had two mini haibun poems that use the title of Tangerine Dream albums as a starting point accepted for Twitter based Renesme Literary, and this is the first time I’ve sent them anywhere.

Which poems are better?

Who knows?

Ultimately, do any of us as writers really know what of our work is good and what isn’t? We’ve just got to keep going, roll with the failures and enjoy the successes when they come.

And if that isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.

I’ll finish with one of the Tangerine Dream themed mini-haibuns that didn’t get selected, so you know what I’m waffling on about. It’s never been published anywhere else, so you can count it as a blog exclusive (!)


Seven colours percolate a mist of windscreen spray. And still I drive. Even now I still drive. To put the light back the way it was supposed to be. The road is clear, this road to home.

across the mudflats
chrome water turns gold
as geese wheel in

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