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  • Ana Savković

Gabriel Rosenstock/Ron Rosenstock: Dark Night Of The Soul

Image: Ron Rosenstock

"may all prisoners be free

of the dark night of the soul"

Daybreak ( is an e-book of photo-tanka in the form of poem-prayers for prisoners. Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock responds to the black-and-white landscape photography of Ron Rosenstock (USA) with a poetic invention from 7th-century Japan, 5-7-5-7-7-syllable tanka. It is a beautiful symbiosis of visual and written art used to express empathy towards a marginalized group of people, the prisoners. Often discriminated against, they rarely take the spotlight in such ways that their humanity is expressed validly, and this is exactly what Daybreak does; it leaves readers pondering about those deemed unatonable. It questions the very basis of the notion that incarcerated must be isolated instead of reintegrated in the society, by evoking the feeling of sympathy in readers as they contemplate about their own faults and existence.

The sad reality of these men and women is that they are forgotten, invisible for the rest of the world. But it is because of people like Rosenstock, a poet whose empathy knows no boundaries, that they are reminded of their humanity, as is the reader.

growing old in here

and if I die—who will know

I’m but a number

I have forgotten my name

I have become nobody

Society tends to forget that prisoners are human beings with identities and fragilities, that they are more than just a number.

say, what is his name

what was he like as a child

who were his parents

say, what do we know of him

the forgotten prisoner

Although being incarcerated is excruciating, Rosenstock realizes that there is certain freedom in imprisonment, being forced to turn inwards and reflect about ones choices in life.

to be all alone

to be with one's inner Self

and a rolling wave

a wave that ascends the spine

the sparkling spume of freedom

Same notion extends to the poem below in which Rosenstock contemplates about the dual nature of existence.

lily-white his soul

extending beyond his cell

it is the unborn

before crime and punishment

before the earth's beginning

Confined, not just by walls, but in their minds as well, prisoner long to leave the night behind them and rejoice in light of the daybreak. Rosenstock understands this, and with every new page of his touching collection these men and women regain their humanity. By the end of it both they and readers learn how to let the light into their hearts.

come, light, come streaming

come, light, through these prison bars

come, light, come flowing

flow into this heart of mine

come streaming, flowing, streaming


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ZiN Daily is published by ZVONA i NARI, Cultural Production Cooperative

Vrčevan 32, 52204 Ližnjan, Istria, Croatia

OIB 73342230946

ISSN 2459-9379


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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