The selected poems in Desire Never Leaves span Tim Lilburn’s career, demonstrating the evolution of a unique and careful thinker as he takes his place among the nation’s premier writers. This edition of his poetry untangles many of the strands running through his works, providing insight into a poetic world that is both spectacular and humbling.
The introduction by Alison Calder situates Lilburn’s writing in an alternate tradition of prairie poetry that relies less on the vernacular and more on philosophy and meditation. Examining Lilburn’s antecedents in Christian mysticism and the ascetic tradition, Calder stresses the paradoxical nature of Lilburn’s writingthe expression of loss through plenitude. The divine in the natural world is glimpsed in brief flashes; nevertheless, the poet, driven by love, continues his quest for what glitters in things.
Tim Lilburn’s afterword is an evocative meditation grounded in personal history. He speaks of how poetry, a craning quiet, allows one to hear what is alive in the world. He also describes how poetry is resolutely attached to both a historical moment and an individual subjectivity that is inevitably anchored in time. Lilburn’s poetry is both a religious undertaking and a political gesture that speaks to the urgency of situating ourselves where we live.
About the Author
Alison Calder has published widely on Canadian prairie literature and culture, including critical editions of Settlers of the Marsh and Over Prairie Trails by Frederick Philip Grove, and Desire Never Leaves: The Poetry of Tim Lilburn. Her poetry collections are Wolf Tree and In the Tiger Park , and with Jeanette Lynes she is the co-author of Ghost Works: Improvisations in Letters and Poems. She teaches Canadian literature and creative writing at the University of Manitoba.
Tim Lilburn is the author of six books of poetry, including the Governor Generals Award-winning collection Kill-Site. He is also the author of a book of essays, Living in the World as if It Were Home , and the editor of two anthologies, Thinking and Singing and Poetry and Knowing.
Read an Excerpt
Contemplation Is Mourning by Tim Lilburn
You lie down in the deer's bed.
It is bright with the undersides of grass revealed by her weight during the
length of her sleep. No one comes here; grass hums
because the body's touched it. Aspen leaves below you sour like horses
after a run. There are snowberries, fescue.
This is the edge of the known world and the beginning of philosophy.
Looking takes you so far on a leash of delight, then removes it and says
the price of admission to further is your name. Either the desert
of what the deer is in herself or a palace life disturbed by itches and
felt through the gigantic walls. Choose.
Light comes through pale trees as mind sometimes kisses the body.
The hills are the bones of hills.
The deer cannot be known. She is the Atlantic, she is Egypt, she is
the night where her names go missing, to walk into her oddness is
; to feel severed, sick, darkened, ashamed.
Her body is a border crossing, a wall and a perfume and past this
she is infinite. And it is terrible to enter this.
You lie down in the deer's bed, in the green martyrion, the place where
language buries itself, waiting place, weem.
You will wait. You will lean into the darkness of her absent
body. You will be shaved and narrowed by the barren strangeness of the
deer, the wastes of her oddness. Snow is coming. Light is cool,
nearly drinkable; from grass protrudes the hard, lost
smell of last year's melted snow.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents for
Desire Never Leaves: The Poetry of Tim Lilburn , selected with an introduction by Alison Calder
Names Of God
Love At The Center Of Objects
Allah Of The Green Circuitry
Light’s Gobbling Eye
Theophany And Argument
Fervourino To A Barn Of Milking Doe Goats Early Easter Morning
Call To Worship In A Mass For The Life Of The World
Elohim Mocks His Images For The Life Of The World
I Bow To It
Spirit Of Agriculture, 1986
In The Hills, Watching
Contemplation Is Mourning
How To Be Here?
There Is No Presence
A Book Of Exhaustion
Afterword: Walking Out of Silence