The Little Book of Gaiku
The Little Book of Gaiku

This post is about the inspiration behind my new photography/Gaelic poetry book, The Little Book of Gaiku, where I gather some of my recent photographic work together with Gaelic haiku poems to accompany them.

I’ve long been an admirer of what would perhaps be termed “wilderness poetry” these days. Poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge to some extent, Norman MacCaig and older Gaelic poets such as Dòmhnall mac Fhionnlaigh nan Dàn and Duncan Bàn MacIntyre. Add to these wonderful wordsmiths the ancient Chinese mountain poets such as Chia Tao and Han Shan and the haiku of Basho and tanka travel diaries and I’ve long had a rich source of inspiration that has run parallel with my photography.

As I write in the book, the original inspiration for me to begin writing Gaelic haiku came on a cold day as a skein of geese flew in from the north, presaging the arrival of winter.

saighead chabadaich
air thilg bho bhogha gheamhraidh
speur geoidh mu dheas

chattering arrow
fired from winter’s bow
sky of south bound geese

Scribbling the arrow thoughts in my notebook I completed the three line verse form later in the day and the ‘gaiku’ was born.

There are many ways to write haiku. You can stick to the traditional Japanese sound unit form of 5-7-5 syllables or go for a more ‘modern’ approach. For me, it depends on what I want to say in the accompanying image. A big inspiration for me when crafting gaiku was Jane Reichhold’s BARE BONES School of Haiku as well as the master, Basho, whom I greatly admire.

In photography, we craft images through use of composition, lighting, viewpoint, filters and lenses but unless we stray into the deeper recesses of ‘fine art’ photography, placing other images perhaps, within our own, sometimes the more esoteric work is lost on the viewer.

I thought I’d write what I was thinking at the time I created the photograph and combine it with the actual printed artwork. The image appeals to my customers in an aesthetic sense but the gaiku that goes with it can unlock a door to another perception.

The image that goes with this post is the view of the Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye, only a week or so ago. An early dump of snow made an ascent of the Grade I winter climb, Great Gully on Blaven possible, so I duly climbed it and popped out on the summit to revel in this wonderful view.

I noticed the rocks in the foreground sort of mirrored the distant and much bigger mountains on the skyline and it playfully occurred to me that the rocks were pulling the snow over themselves. Playing at being mountains.

sneachd air creagan beaga
feitheamh air an t-sneachdaire
cluich coltach ri beinn

snow on small rocks
wait for the ptarmigan
playing at mountains

I hope you enjoyed this taste of gaiku and the inspiration behind creating them. The Little Book of Gaiku is available from my website.