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Finding Inspiration – Who is Jason Symes?

Writing.ie | Magazine | The Big Idea
GabrielRosenstock

By Gabriel Rosenstock

Who is Jason Symes? His gmail identity photo reveals none other than Waldorf, a geezer in the Muppet Show. I don’t know what Jason Symes looks like – we’ve never met – but I have had a glimpse of his soul. Jason sent me over a hundred photos, asking would I like to respond to them with haiku, or senryu – a genre that’s similar to haiku.

I have been responding with haiku to landscape photography for decades. The latest book in this genre is just out from Long Exposure Press, an e-book called Emptiness with American master photographer Ron Rosenstock, no relation:

https://longexposuremagazine.com/

Ron’s landscape photography is classic black and white, timeless; Jason’s is colour, a thread of gold running through many of the North Dublin locations that he captures so memorably.

I like responding to photography in this way, with haiku in Irish and English. It’s a spontaneous art. Happening in a flash, the rational processes of the brain are sidestepped.

One of the joys of writing bilingually is the unexpected delights that are often thrown up by back translation. This is how it works: a haiku that’s first written in Irish, say, translate it into English; back translate the English (or a section of the haiku) into Irish. If the result isn’t an improvement, stick to the original haiku.

Image: Photograph (c) Jason Stymes, Haiku (c) Gabriel Rosenstock

The secret of haiku – and great landscape photography, too – is to leave the self behind and enter into the life of a short-lived perceived glow which we find in natural phenomenon, any time of the day, any day of the year. Each time it’s a pilgrimage. A modern haiku master, Santoka, says, ‘My pilgrimage is into the depths of the human heart’.

Santoka’s haiku teacher was Ogiwara Seisensui (1884 -1976), a beacon for me also.  Seisensui often spoke of a glow or a flash and it is this flash (!) which the photographer and haikuist seek to experience and record:

We must not miss this flash of lightning. We must capture the sensations of this valuable instant. We must constantly strive to deepen our perception and gain a greater enlightenment by recording and expressing our feelings of these moments. The haiku form is short, sharp, and intense because it aims to record the rare glowing moments at which our life radiates rays of light.”

(Quoted in Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature, Makoto Ueda, Stanford University Press)

Comparisons between capturing moments in photography and in haiku become startlingly clear once you read the writings of great photographers such as Cartier-Bresson.

I’d like to do a book and/or an exhibition with Jason Symes to prove, once again, how beautifully compatible are the arts of haiku and landscape photography. It’s a genre that gives me endless pleasure on the endless pilgrimage we’re all on.

(c) Gabriel Rosenstock

Gabriel Rosenstock is the author/translator of over 160 books, including 13 volumes of poetry and a volume of haiku in Irish and in English,  as well as numerous books for children.
A member of Aosdána (the Irish Academy of Arts and Letters), he has given readings in Europe, South, Central and North America, India, Australia, Japan and has been published in various leading international journals including Akzente, Neue Rundschau, and die horen (Germany), Poetry (Chicago), World Haiku Review, Irish Pages, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly and Sirena. He has given readings at major festivals, including Berlin, Bremen, Struga (Macedonia), Vilenica (Slovenia), Medellín, Vilnius,  Ars Poetica (Slovakia)  and twice at the nomadic Kritya festival in India.
Jason Stymes is a photographer working in Dublin.

About the author

Gabriel Rosenstock is the author/translator of over 160 books, including 13 volumes of poetry and a volume of haiku in Irish and in English,  as well as numerous books for children.
A member of Aosdána (the Irish Academy of Arts and Letters), he has given readings in Europe, South, Central and North America, India, Australia, Japan and has been published in various leading international journals including Akzente, Neue Rundschau, and die horen (Germany), Poetry (Chicago), World Haiku Review, Irish Pages, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly and Sirena. He has given readings at major festivals, including Berlin, Bremen, Struga (Macedonia), Vilenica (Slovenia), Medellín, Vilnius,  Ars Poetica (Slovakia)  and twice at the nomadic Kritya festival in India.
Jason Stynes is a photographer working in Dublin.
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