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Garry Eaton, Canada
ISBN-13:9780992723897; Publisher: The Onslaught Press; Imprint: The Onslaught Press; 2015; Pages: 244; 140mm (w) x 216mm (h) x 14mm (d); Original language of a translated text: Irish; Translated by Mariko Sumikura and John McDonald; Illustrations by Mathew Staunton
Celtic Inherence in Haiku
What Ken Jones did for Wales in his 'Stallion's Crag,' a long haibun that reflects on that country's storied landscape and past, Gabriel Rosenstock does for Scotland in his haiku collection, 'Antlered Stag of Dawn'. These two writers inherited and shared (Jones is lately deceased) a strong measure of resistance to Britain's historical leadership (some call it domination) of the less powerful members of the United Kingdom. What Rosenstock does that Jones never did is exult in this resistance by publishing his haiku in four languages, two of which, Gaelic and Scots, are little known and even less used anymore. It is thus that he asserts, at least symbolically, the cultural equality of the UK's various members and their right to continue to celebrate separate and distinct pasts. Rosenstock has a clear and comprehensive knowledge of Scottish myth, literature and history and out of that knowledge writes many haiku which will strike resounding chords in the imagination of anyone who admires and in some measure identifies with the greatness and the defeats Scotland has enjoyed and endured:
the moors are desolate
where are all the bonfires?
Recognition of ineradicable military defeats brings Rosenstock to find meaning and solace in symbolic and heraldic designs that suggest, despite losses, the enduring vigour of the Celtic imagination:
laid low are the chieftains
but see, you arise –
great stag of dawn
An innovation Rosenstock brings to this collection is to intersperse, occasionally, what he calls a 'Proverbial Pause,' usually a one-liner that sums up some proverbial Scots characteristic, such as determination not only to succeed but to excel in difficult ventures:
The Gael's breathing space -- on the summit!
Such a haiku reminds us of how much the discovery and exploration of the world's wild places has, since the Clearances and until the era of modern space travel, been a Scottish endeavor. If you enjoy haiku that are lively, often humourous, but also densely packed with historical and literary allusions, you will enjoy this offering from Gabriel Rosenstock, with translations by John McDonald and Mariko Sumikura and illustrations by Mathew Staunton. Like Jones did with his 'Stallion's Crag,' Rosenstock includes highly informative endnotes that will increase your appreciation of his often erudite poetry without interfering with the essential messages he conveys.
Reprinted from “Wordery” by the author’s permission.