About the Author

Tim Lilburn

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.

Books by this Author
Desire Never Leaves

Desire Never Leaves

The Poetry of Tim Lilburn
also available: Paperback
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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

and winter

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.

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Going Home

Going Home

also available: eBook
tagged : ecology, essays
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I meet Louise, and I’ve got the Platform Sutra
of the Sixth Patriarch in the bag the Taoist nun at Xining told me
would always feed me luck, the one with the yellow-green bird
streaming from mere being.
On the lefthand side of Hui Neng’s book, old characters like the lost forest
north of Chang’an, people moving in it, soft-mouthed older people,
catching birds with long poles and string.
We go to see The Apostle, Robert Duvall.
In the film, Duvall has Motion balled in his hand: he looks at it then
us, quickly, back and forth through the film.
Duvall’s on a roll; what he’s doing is rhythmic and ugly; he’s
always musical, bucking, but you can’t be sure what you see
inside. Sometimes a room that someone’s just left,
sometimes a garden of machines.
I want to write about human brightness coming into the world, out of
the water in the ground and into the world.
Hiddenness appears in everything.
It lifts out of the chest of everything toward you, elm
shade, wheat, a river, late grass.
Come in, it says. Where have you been?
You could say that when Louise and I sit
there watching the film we are being
thought by the dark.
It says what it needs to say.
The tongue casts its shadow but the mouth is bright.

A Word about the Poem by Tim Lilburn
In “Shouting,” I go to a film with the poet Louise Halfe. It’s The Apostle, where Robert Duvall plays a fundamentalist preacher of uncontrolled conviction and barely controlled violence. Louise comes out of residential school; I am an ex-Jesuit; it seems to me that Duvall had some fierce religion in his past. None of this information appears in the poem, but it adds pressure. As we, two friends, watch the spectacle — Duvall shouting — the night moves around us: some large thinking is breaking up like ice sheets on the river.

How the Poem Works by A. J. Levin
Tim Lilburn is often compared to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Both were Jesuits, and both favour taut lines in which no word is extraneous. Less obviously, “Shouting” may be read as a Shakespearean sonnet. It may not have the traditional rhythms or rhyming patterns, but it contains strong similarities to Shakespeare’s idea of the role of a sonnet.

The first part of the poem sets up two apparently contrary groupings. Louise, antiquity, Taoism, grace, books, femininity, and the East are opposed to the poet, modernity, Southern Baptism, ugliness, film, masculinity, and the West. Yet this part of the poem, with its extraordinarily long lines, replicates the effect of a sacred text from either tradition, of Chinese monks meditating aloud or of Duvall’s preacher spinning his spiel. This anticipates the poem’s conclusion, which, like a Shakespearean sonnet, contains the reconciliation of opposites. This reconciliation, again, as in Shakespeare, comes about through the friendship of two dissimilar yet alike minds.

The poem’s crucial line, “Hiddenness appears in everything,” bridges the apposed groupings, and philosophy (even Nietzsche’s atheism) and faith. The line recalls Deuteronomy 29:29, reminding that God is unseen yet everywhere, an embodiment of the balancing concepts of yin and yang fundamental to Taoism. This idea is reinforced by the beautiful last line, in which the mouth and tongue — female and male analogues — adopt each other’s characteristics.

A. J. Levin’s book, Monks’ Fruit, was nominated for the 2005 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

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Orphic Politics


Someone wearing a vest of radon implants
coaxed my tongue to be sweetly laid out in a kurgan of rain.
This is the rain’s nest, he said, where you will be joined
by the skin of a galloping horse held up by sticks.
Just then God’s mouth filled with lead.
People at that time started, it seemed, to bleed
in the streets from their ears.
This wasn’t force of listening, they
just were scraped by some large thing moving past,
sleet of arrows, yielding shelf of stones.
I stared at them, peak, peak, peak. The quills in their hands
and feet slicked into me, over
the border into me like I was being shot up, quietly and in secret
by drum solos.
Let us dip the tip of horror in horror.
Randy went down, Albert rappelled under the waves.
Something, all we’d never said, was eating
up from below.
St. Teresa of Avila was sitting in a gold chair
in a breathing-through-a-straw house in a suburb
quite far out, where what she’s saying — it eggs slowly from
her mouth — is taken up in spikes along the back legs of the hum
from swelling, overhead wires.

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The Griffin Poetry Prize 2011 Anthology

The Griffin Poetry Prize 2011 Anthology

also available: Paperback
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The Larger Conversation

The Larger Conversation

Contemplation and Place
also available: Paperback
tagged : epistemology
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Writing the Terrain

Writing the Terrain

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