LITERARY LOCATION: 1255 Victoria Avenue, Victoria

For many decades Robin Skelton lived here with his wife and was known for being the major literary presence in Victoria. He taught at the University of Victoria for almost 30 years, teaching in the Department of English and then in the Department of Creative Writing, of which he was the founding Chairman in 1973. In 1967, together with John Peter, he founded The Malahat Review, which he edited until 1982. The house was the venue for many literary gatherings.


Poet, anthologist, editor, teacher, biographer, art and literary critic, historical writer, initiated witch and occultist Robin Skelton was born in 1925 in Easington, East Yorkshire, England. He went to the University of Leeds and taught at the University of Manchester until 1963, when he immigrated to Canada. Skelton became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a Chairman of the Writers' Union of Canada. Skelton was also a driving force behind the creation of a Special Collections division of the University of Victoria library.

Mainly a poet, Skelton published four fiction collections, The Parrot Who Could, Telling the Tale, Hanky Panky and Higgledy Piggledy, as well as one speculative novel, Fires of the Kindred. As one of Canada's most high-profile male witches, he was once called to serve as an expert witness at Victoria's "100 Huntley Street" witchcraft trial that resulted in a legal distinction between Satanism and witchcraft. His books pertaining to witchcraft and ghosts were Spellcraft, Invocations and Blessings, A Gathering of Ghosts and The Practice of Witchcraft.

A mentor to Susan Musgrave at the outset of her writing career, Skelton was a major figure in the literary community of southern Vancouver Island where he directly influenced the operations of Morriss Printing and Sono Nis Press.

Skelton recalled, "Charlie [Morriss] loved the designing and making of books. In 1963 he designed and printed a 16-page chapbook for me. It was A Valedictory Poem Upon his Departure from Manchester, England, for the New World. He created a two-colour title page. It was to be a limited numbered signed edition of 100 copies for distribution to friends and enemies. Charlie could not restrain himself. He did 150... Charlie asked me in 1964 to give him some advice about becoming a publisher. I told him that the only safe way of doing it would be to publish limited editions for the collectors' market. That way he would enjoy making the books and lose no money. Otherwise, I said, it was a risky business. Thirteen years later it was his son Dick who became the publisher... When The Malahat Review first appeared in 1967, Charlie could not resist giving John Peter and I personal copies specially bound. Finely bound books gave him real pleasure and it was a pleasure he delighted to share."

Robin Skelton died on August 22, 1997. Harold Rhenisch helped gather a collection of poems that Skelton had completed shortly before his death for a posthumous volume, Facing the Light. In 2007, the Malahat Review celebrated its fortieth year in print and also marked the tenth anniversary of the death of Robin Skelton, the magazine's co-founder and long-time editor, by publishing a tribute issue in the Fall of 2007 (Issue No.160) in his honour, in conjunction with a literary festival at the University of Victoria and around the city of Victoria. Some of the events included an art exhibit of The Robin and Sylvia Skelton Collection at UVic's Maltwood Gallery, a display of Skelton's papers held by the McPherson Library, a public lecture by Robert Bringhurst, a gala poetry reading at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and an exhibit of Skelton's collages at the Emily Carr Gallery. Three performances of "Robin Skelton: A Living Collage," a multi-media event created by Tim Gosley, a Victoria-raised, Toronto-based puppet artist, were also staged.


Patmos, And Other Poems. London: Routledge, 1955.

The Poetic Pattern. 1956.

Third Day Lucky. London: Oxford University Press, 1958.

Begging the Dialect: Poems and Ballads. London: Oxford University Press, 1960.

The Dark Window. London: Oxford UP, 1962.

An Irish Gathering. 1964.

Selected Poems, 1947-1967. Toronto: M&S, 1968.

An Irish Album. 1969

The Hunting Dark. 1971.

The Practice of Poetry. 1971.

A Different Mountain: Messages, 1962-1970: Poems And Photo-Collages. Santa Cruz, Calif.: Kayak, 1971.

Timelight. Toronto, M&S, 1974.

The Poet's Calling. 1975.

Callsigns. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1976.

Because of Love. Toronto: M&S, 1977.

Poetic Truth. 1978.

Spellcraft: A Handbook of Invocations and Blessings. Sono Nis Press, 1978.

Landmarks. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1979.

Collected Shorter Poems, 1947-1977. 1981.

Limits. Erin: Procupine's Quill, 1981.

The Paper Cage. Lantzville: Oolichan Books, 1982.

Zuk. 1982.

House Of Dreams. Erin: Porcupine's Quill, 1983.

Wordsong: Twelve Ballads. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1983.

The Man Who Sang In His Sleep. Erin: Porcupine's Quill, 1984.

The Collected Longer Poems, 1947-1977. Sono Nis Press, 1985.

Distances. Erin: Porcupine's Quill, 1985.

Fires Of the Kindred. Victoria: Porcepic Books, 1987.

Telling the Tale. Erin: Porcupine's Quill, 1987.

The Parrot Who Could. Sono Nis Press, 1987.

The Memoirs of A Literary Blockhead. Toronto: Macmillan, 1988.

Openings. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1988.

Portrait of My Father. Sono Nis Press, 1989.

A Gathering of Ghosts. Western Producer Prairie Books, 1989. With Jean Kozocari.

The Practice of Witchcraft. Porcepic, 1990.

Hanky Panky. 1990.

A Devious Dictionary. Cacanadadada, 1991. With 13 collages by Ludwig Zeller.

Higgledy Piggledy. Vancouver: Pulp Pres, 1992.

Popping Fuchsias: Poems, 1987-1992. Vancouver: Cacanadadada, 1992.

A Formal Music: Poems In Classical Metres. Victoria: Reference West, 1993.

Islands: Poems in The Traditional Forms And Metres Of Japan. Victoria: Ekstasis Editions, 1993.

I Am Me: Rhymes For Small. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1994.

A Way Of Walking: Poems In The Traditional Forms And Metres Of Japan. Victoria: Ekstasis Editions, 1994.

Wrestling the Angel: Collected Shorter Poems, 1947-1977. Victoria: Beach Holme, 1994.

The Edge Of Time: Poems And Translations.
Vancouver: Ronsdale, 1995.

Or So I Say: Contentions & Confessions.
Victoria: Ekstatis, 1995.

One Leaf Shaking: Collected Later Poems, 1977-1990. Victoria: Porcepic, 1996.

The Shapes of Our Singing. Eastern Washington University Press, 1999.

Facing the Light (Ekstasis, 2006).

In This Poem I Am: Selected Poetry of Robin Skelton (Dundurn, 2007). Selected and edited by Harold Rhenisch.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2007] "Poetry" "Fiction" "Cariboo" "Biography"