Rhythm, Jackson wrote, was elusive.
"We struggle for words to describe the rhythms we hear in nature (sloshing lake waters) or music (reverberating gamelans), or the ones we see in paintings or other visual arts. Most reporters cannot define rhythm after they've accomplished some of it in stories. And few editors are able to tell reporters how to generate it when it's missing."
Cadence, however, involves content, a "happy wedding of syntax and substance. Cadence results in your story when you place the right things in the right places at the right times."
Jackson found cadence in his scholarly research as well. Editor of four books of essays on D.H. Lawrence, former editor of the D.H. Lawrence Review and a president of the D.H. Lawrence Society of North America, Jackson knew Lawrence's writing well.
In his afterword in a 2005 edition of "Sons and Lovers," Jackson noted the author's cadence in describing the aftermath of Annie and Paul giving their mother a fatal dose of morphine:
Annie huddled into the dressing-gown. Paul wrapped himself in a brown
blanket. It was three o‘clock. He mended the fire. Then the two sat
waiting. The great, snoring breath was taken—held awhile—then given
back. There was a space—a long space. Then they started. The great,
snoring breath was taken again. He bent close down and looked at her.
“Isn’t it awful!” whispered Annie.
He nodded. They sat down again
helplessly. Again came the great, snoring breath. Again they hung
suspended. Again it was given back, long and harsh. The sound, so
irregular, at such wide intervals, sounded through the house. Morel, in
his room, slept on. Paul and Annie sat crouched, huddled, motionless.
The great, snoring sound began again—there was a painful pause while the
breath was held—back came the rasping breath. Minute after minute
passed. Paul looked at her again, bending low over her.
“She may last
like this,” he said.
Jackson wrote: "Those twenty-three sentences include 159
words and average a scant 6.9 words each. For Lawrence, those are
unusually short sentences, especially with so many of them appearing in
contiguous fashion. (By contrast, the novel’s opening paragraph includes
six sentences that average twenty-four words each.) But Lawrence is
using the short, clipped prose here to replicate the slow crawl of time.
Short sentences (with their frequent hard-stop periods) make for slower
reading than a series of long sentences."
Jackson wrote widely and was honored repeatedly for his research and teaching. For one student, though, what mattered was Jackson's ability to inspire.
"I was an aimless, mediocre English major when I took
Dennis Jackson’s 'Introduction to Journalism' class," wrote Cris Barrish, a longtime reporter for the News Journal and now with WHYY. "Dennis and his
fascinating stories about interviewing, reporting and writing captured
my imagination. He praised my work and even though I didn’t work for The
Review, recommended me for a part-time sportswriter/clerk job at the
Wilmington newspaper, where he had forged strong ties.
made all the difference in my life. I would never have become
journalist, let alone a successful investigative reporter, if not for