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The title of Dennis Haskell’s Acts of Defiance comes from a poem which proclaims every human attempt to discover meaning “an act / of defiance of death”. Drawn from thirty years of writing, Haskell’s Selected Poems provides explorations of the nature of truth and the meaning – if any – of human emotions. Language stands here in varying relations to the world, sometimes fragile, sometimes funny, sometimes elegiac, in portraying a deep link between a mysterious transcendent and the ordinary. Even in their cosmopolitanism – the settings include China, France, Germany, Singapore, and the USA – the poems maintain a tough minded sense of reality that might be seen to be deeply Australian. The subjects range from contemporary approaches to love and death, to the nature of happiness, conceptions of God, Aboriginal painting, and French Resistance leaders.
Is love meaningless or utterly valuable? Are the meanings of human life discovered or made? Is identity rooted in place or flying about a globalised world? The book explores meanings underwritten by death, and explores a breadth of language and huge range of emotions.
‘Haskell does not shy away from the difficulty of conveying deep, universal emotions without sentimentality’ —Geoff Page
‘Haskell understands a range of poetic genres and is equally at home in all of them.’ —Geoff Page