Robin Skelton David Jackel - Essay

David Jackel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Here we have, as Skelton terms [Because of Love], "a more or less narrative sequence" (less rather than more, I think, since several of the poems were separately published before being gathered into this narrative), one which both depicts the course of a particular love affair and attempts to celebrate love as a vital force in human life. Technically the poetry is impressive in nearly every line. Skelton is a craftsman whose work shows that he has not merely studied but absorbed the major traditions of poetry in English, and can write with gracefully assured precision in a variety of tones and rhythmic forms.

His technical skill is expended, however, on delineating in this new book the nuances of feelings which are seldom clearly motivated. The sensitive speaker in the narrative is too much in love with love, and too self-consciously sensitive, to deal adequately with any person or quality outside himself; his beloved exists for the reader only as a set of gestures, detached phrases, and stray details of physical appearance. The speaker's response to her is vivid enough, but sexual attraction too often empties his mind of every other concern. Although he has much to say about love, the language he speaks is rarely the language of love, that language which shows desire and affection transforming the public and private aspects of a whole personality. (p. 38)

David Jackel, in The Canadian Forum, August, 1977.