The Recognition

Haskell, Dennis

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: Oct-30-1996


An apostrophe to a friend of the author, a devout Catholic who died of leukemia, this poem moves through a spectrum of grieving emotions. The poet remembers an ironic comment: "and you said, when someone asked / if you’d have the operation offered, / ’I don’t have a choice’: / you were right. Your choice was death / or death." Later, he angrily swears at the attempted reassurances of the priest, developing his own bleak vision of God, but he finally concludes: "I can’t scorn your beliefs, / dare not laugh, suffer or sneer. / After all, it’s me who’s writing this / as if you’d hear."


At one point the dying man asks "Why me, and not the Birneys!" The Birneys were serial killers convicted in Western Australia, the author’s home region. Many, many poems have been written asking the "why" question about death. It is a measure of the author’s abilities that he has produced a direct, moving, and thoughtful addition to the genre, especially since he did not accept the dying friend’s faith or the post-mortem platitudes of the memorial service.


The author is a professor of literature at the University of Western Australia.

Primary Source

Poetry, Vol. 169, No. 1, Oct.-Nov. (1996)


Modern Poetry Association

Place Published

Chicago, Ill.