Provisional Meanings: Belonging and Not-Belonging in the Poetry of Dennis Haskell

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Abstract

Dennis Haskell’s poetry persistently explores images of home and departure. As it does, it questions what we may know and depend on, suggesting that many of our understandings are provisional. Haskell’s poetry also contrasts what is imagined and desired with what is knowable – giving prominence to quotidian knowledge and observable reality – and restlessly explores the relationship of religious belief to lived experience. In this light, the elegiac strand in his work becomes a way of probing the gap between death and the limitations of language, highlighting the sometimes problematic relationship between thought and expression. Yet, poetry provides a means of access to otherwise unapproachable thoughts and feelings and connects the poet (and reader) to an articulate human community. It enables the delineation of a simultaneously observant, detached and engaged subjectivity that consistently seeks to find connections – whether at home, while travelling or in international settings. This poetry joins the familiar and unfamiliar in works that question how people understand one another and their unique circumstances, and how the ineffable, while it may be evoked in words, nevertheless retains its deep mysteries. Haskell is interested in the ways in which we make and disturb meaning, and in questioning how belief in God or an afterlife may be understood despite scepticism and doubt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-69
Number of pages12
JournalAsiatic
Volume13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

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