I Do Not Think That I Could Love a Human Being

I Do Not Think That I Could Love a Human Being

By Bert Almon

A review of I Do Not Think That I Could Love A Human Being by Johanna Skibsrud

Published on October 1, 2010

I Do Not Think That I Could Love A Human Being
Johanna Skibsrud

Gaspereau Press
$19.95
paper
78pp
978-1-554470-85-3

Johanna Skibsrud’s approach to the poem often seems to be, “Why use two pages when three would do?” Her book begins with elegiac poems about a friend named Ed, and they are probably the best in the book. She roots them in nature by remembering experiences while boating and mingles memories with present situations in a way that hasn’t really changed since the Romantics, but can still be moving. The more meditative poems explore the tentative, problematic nature of meaning
and memory, but the tentative becomes tiresome at too much length. Her brief poems are better, like the one about the passing of Robert Strange McNamara, who directed the Vietnam War; a few images imply moral comment without making it. These poems simply celebrate ordinary life. Two formally rich poems also work very well in a book full of irregular stanzas and uneven lines: “Come, Postman” makes a fine use of parallelism in its address to the postman – who stands in for knowledge of the world, presumably – and “When I Am Called to Stand” uses the ancient form of the invocation to address the speaker’s own heart, taking offfrom a line in The Egyptian Book of the Dead (“O my heart, do not stand as a witness against me in the tribunal”). The book shows talent, but it needs more concentration in its use. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.

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