And Yet … by Dennis Haskell

This is the inaugural publication in the Master Poets Series where WA POETS PUBLISHING will publish eminent Western Australian poets in high quality, short run publications.

Thanks to the Editorial Panel comprising Lucy Dougan, Barbara Temperton and David McCooey for their input and suggested edits in the production of  this book.

Preorder your copies for delivery ASAP after the launch on 20th August 

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And Yet …

This is a collection of lyric poems of considerable variety exhibiting an unforced delight in language. It includes elegies, satires, love poems, comic works, and ekphrastic poems (many of which bring the past firmly into the present). Unlike most Australian writing, it shows very limited concern with landscape; Haskell’s focus is much more on ideas and relationships, and the way the deepest meanings are found in ordinary life. And Yet… is structured in four sections: the first explores the aftermath of his wife’s death; the second presents reactions to a range of overseas experiences; the third, more miscellaneous section includes satirical treatment of the hyperserious; and the book concludes with strong meditations on the nature of innocence and experience. The collection insists on facing up to the fact that our days do end, and yet it equally celebrates the possibilities of human life in the contemporary world, and notably concludes with a love poem.

A warm summer’s evening.
I sat listening to Dennis read:
the philosopher and the critic
were everywhere; his thoughts
mischievous as light on waves.

His words,
his lines,
his craft appear
to be ever more simple,
ever more refined.

These days, the poems
can unbutton your soul.
Filled with love and loss,
they are raindrops falling on
parched earth, parched lives.

Tony Curtis, Ireland
(from “Big Skies, Inner Rain”)

And Yet … (Includes postage within Australia)

A$28.50

And Yet … (Includes international postage)

A$38.50

 

DENNIS HASKELL is the author of 8 collections of poetry, recently Ahead of Us (Fremantle Press, 2016) and What Are You Doing Here? (University of The Philippines Press, 2015) plus 14 volumes of literary scholarship and criticism. He is the recipient of the Western Australia Premier’s Prize for Poetry, the A A Phillips Prize for a distinguished contribution to Australian literature (from the Association for the Study of Australian Literature), and of an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from The University of Western Australia. In 2015 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “services to literature, particularly poetry, to education and to intercultural understanding”.

Gone Away

Visiting Taiwan, and alone with my grandson,
no toys around, no books, no loose Lego bricks,
lost for something to amuse or distract him,
I pulled from my wallet the one photo I keep:

he could recognise me, younger, before he was born,
and laugh at his dad; I could point out Uncle Cam.
“But who’s that?” he asked, gesturing
to where you stood, the shortest, at the end

“That’s your Aussie Grandma,” I explained,
“She got sick and died.”
———————————–  “Sick” he understood
of course – he’d been sick himself. “Died”
surprised him less than I thought it would.

His friend had a puppy who had died:
“He went away and won’t be coming back.”
I thought of the great cathedrals, the stone churches,
the wooden, peak-roofed place I went to weekly

and meekly as a child; hundreds of Indian Gods,
the Greeks ranting, raping and raging about the sky,
the minarets with their yearning calls to prayer,
some of the pseudo-scientific, stranger cults

of the 4,000 religions that exist on Earth
– all driven by faith, lack of evidence, and lack
of reasoning, the desperate need we have
to believe that we will never die.
I thought of the great minds, the stern philosophers,
took the small photo from his tiny fingers
with stuttering breath, and opened my wallet
to keep intact the wealth, the fragility I hold there

and reflected on all the knowledge we now have
and all the knowledge we lack, and reflected too
on all any of us has ever understood of death:
you have gone away, and won’t be coming back.

Dennis Haskell

 

Been There

Breathless I caught the train, which sped along;
next to me a middle-aged couple sat
and being a bit middle-aged myself
I thought that I would kindly chat.

We passed Cottesloe where “In the sun,”
I said, “how relaxing that people just sat
on the shining sand, or surfed the waves”.
“Ah,” they replied, “We’ve been there, done that!”

“But children,” I said, “have so much fun,
swim and build castles – my kids loved that!”
“Ah kids,” they said, “we had two of them
who’ve up and left – been there, done that!”

“More beautiful beaches here than overseas”,
I said, at the risk of sounding a prat.
“Ah travel”, they spat, “We’ve been on two tours:
broadens the mind – been there, done that!”

They were in agreement on everything;
they never seemed to have had a spat.
On Coleridge’s ship sailed death-in-life,
too late to live, too soon to die in fact,

so when we raced past still Karakatta
I wondered if the dead lay there flat
and said to each other in idle chatter
“Ah life, life – been there, done that!”

Dennis Haskell