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Philosophy Epistemology

The Larger Conversation

Contemplation and Place

by (author) Tim Lilburn

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2017
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    Publish Date
    Nov 2017
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    Publish Date
    Nov 2017
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This volume, the final in Tim Lilburn’s decades-long meditation on philosophy and environmental consequences, traces a relationship between mystic traditions and the political world. Struck by the realization that he did not know how to be where he found himself, Lilburn embarked on a personal attempt at decolonization, seeking to uncover what is wrong within Canadian culture and to locate a possible path to recovery. He proposes a new epistemology leading to an ecologically responsible and spiritually acute relationship between settler Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and the land we inhabit. The Larger Conversation is a bold statement: a vital text for readers of environmental philosophy and for anyone interested in building toward conversation between Indigenous peoples and settlers.

About the author

Tim Lilburn was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. He has published eight books of poetry, including To the River, Kill-site, and Orphic Politics. His work has received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for Kill-site and the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award (for To the River), among other prizes. Lilburn has produced two essay collections, both concerned with poetics, eros, and politics, Living in the World as if It Were Home and Going Home, and edited two other collections on poetics, Poetry and Knowing and Thinking and Singing: Poetry and the Practice of Philosophy. He was a participant in the 2008 Pamirs Poetry Journey. Lilburn teaches at the University of Victoria.

Tim Lilburn's profile page


  • Short-listed, Cover Design | Alberta Book Publishing Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta

Editorial Reviews

"In a series of essays, lectures, confessions, and interviews, all based on years of reading and research, Lilburn shares not new but old, reclaimed ways of thinking—long-ignored riches from the Christian, Judaic and Islamic contemplative wisdom traditions.... In order to undo the Western extractive, colonial approach to land—one that uses, warehouses, and dominates—we have to return to our former strengths, what Lilburn calls 'cognitive rebar.' What justice asks of us is that we do the work to prepare for conversation." [Full article at]

Focus Magazine

"In 1999, writer and poet Tim Lilburn published the non-fiction work Living in the World as if It Were Home, a meditation on humanity's relationship with the natural environment that has become a classic and was the first book in a loose trilogy examining the connections between politics, environmentalism, philosophy, and modernity. Eighteen years later, the final part of the trilogy, a volume of contemplative essays, is available from UAP."

Quill & Quire

"One of Lilburn’s primary interests has always been the relationship – the dialogue – between poetry and philosophy, including their common roots and common objectives.... At the same time, some of this writing is deeply personal, even confessional; here, the writer is more candid than usual about his own life, including childhood memories, illness and aging, faith and doubt." Kelly Shepherd, UTP Quarterly 2017 [Full review at DOI 10.3138/utq.88.3.hr79]

Focus Magazine

"The Larger Conversation is a beautiful, patient, and persistent philosophical work.... Lilburn suggests that in entering a relationship with place, with any specific place that we care about, we can be seen by place and thus be given our identity—indeed our Being—through a kind of grace. I love this argument and line of thought for its beauty and practicality. It offers a true way to move forward from the colonial past by first making changes to how we perceive reality—a reality that we constantly misunderstand—about how and why and who we are in place." [Full review at]

Canadian Literature 236

"It takes a poet to see the extraordinary in the mundane.... This is reading for the joy of it." [Full review at]

Blacklock's Reporter

"[Lilburn] feels that beneath 'the smoothness, the relative fine running of late capitalism,' there’s a disturbing hunger... And why? Because, argues Lilburn, through chapters on philosophical inquiry, spiritual struggle, deep ecological concern, and unsparing self-confession, we have not truly learned how to live on this land so relatively new to us, a land acquired in many ways through violence and dishonesty... What Lilburn attempts in this larger conversation is to find a way back, through earnest inquiry with philosophers, mystics, poets, and saints stretching back thousands of years, to the 'essence of nature'..." [Full review at]

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

"This collection of essays is the third in a series of books in which Lilburn reflects on his own sense of rootlessness, often as a cultural phenomenon. The current book's emphasis on the colonial condition is new...[The] construal at the heart of the book is individual and specific: North Americans of European descent suffer from a colonial malaise consisting significantly of a malformed relation to place."

The Fiddlehead

"This book is exactly what I think is required in the emerging scholarly and literary work on decolonization in Canada. This isn't a dry and heavy academic text marking up conceptual territory: territorializing knowledge with confusing title and jargon... This book is much more in the traditions of mystical contemplative philosophy."


Other titles by Tim Lilburn

Numinous Seditions

Interiority and Climate Change

by (author) Tim Lilburn

The House of Charlemagne

by (author) Tim Lilburn

The Names


by (author) Tim Lilburn


by (author) Tim Lilburn

The Griffin Poetry Prize 2011 Anthology

edited by Tim Lilburn

Desire Never Leaves

The Poetry of Tim Lilburn

edited by Alison Calder
by (author) Tim Lilburn

Going Home


by (author) Tim Lilburn

Orphic Politics

by (author) Tim Lilburn

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets

contributions by Ian Adam, Robert Stamp, Tammy Armstrong, Margaret Avison, Douglas Barbour, John O. Barton, Doug Beardsley, Bonnie Bishop, E.D. Blodgett, Robert Boates, George Bowering, Tim Bowling, Jan Boydol, Gordon Burles, Murdoch Burnett, Anne Campbell, Weyman Chan, Leonard Cohen, Dennis Cooley, Joan Crate, Michael Cullen, Cyril Dabydeen, Lorne Daniel, Alexa DeWiel, Jason Dewinetz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cecelia Frey, Gary Geddes, Gail Ghai, Deborah Godin, Jim Green, Leslie Greentree, Vivian Hansen, Tom Henihan, Michael Henry, Walter Hildebrandt, Gerald Hill, Robert Hilles, Nancy Holmes, Richard Hornsey, Tom Howe, Aislinn Hunter, Bruce Hunter, Laurence Hutchman, Sally Ito, Pauline Johnson, Aleksei Kazuk, Robert Kroetsch, Fiona Lam, William Latta, Tim Lilburn, Alice Major, Kim Maltman, Miriam Mandel, Sid Marty, David McFadden, Barry McKinnon, Erin Michie, Deborah Miller, Anna Mioduchowska, James M. Moir, Colin Morton, Erín Moure, Charles Noble, P.K. Page, Rajinderpal Pal, Ruth Roach Pierson, Joseph Pivato, Roberta Rees, D.C. Reid, Monty Reid, R. rickey, Ken Rivard, Stephen Scobie, Allan Serafino, Joan Shillington, Greg Simison, Carol Ann Sokoloff, Karen Solie, Stephan Stephansson, Peter Stevens, Ivan Sundal, Anne Swannell, Vanna Tessier, Colleen Thibadeau, John O. Thompson, James M. Thurgood, Eva Tihanyi, Yvonne Trainer, Aritha van Herk, Rosalee van Stelten, Miriam Waddington, James Wreford Watson, Wilfred Watson, Tom Wayman, Phyllis Webb, Jon Whyte, Christine Wiesenthal, Sheri-D Wilson, Christopher Wiseman, Stacie Wolfer, Rita Wong, Richard Woollatt & Jan Zwicky

To the River

by (author) Tim Lilburn