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Desire Never Leaves

The Poetry of Tim Lilburn

Edited by Alison Calder
By Tim Lilburn
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Poetry
Series Laurier Poetry Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889205147, 64 pages, December 2006
Ebook (EPUB) : 9780889205406, 64 pages, August 2009


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.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Desire Never Leaves: The Poetry of Tim Lilburn, selected with an introduction by Alison Calder


Neil Besner

Biographical Note


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

Tim Lilburn



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 writing—the 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.


``A welcome and strongly recommended introduction to one of Canada's best poets. ''

- Midwest Book Review, February 2007

``The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming. ''

- Paul Milton, Canadian Literature, 193, Summer 2007

``Desire Never Leaves . .. is an excellent explanatory introduction to Lilburn's craft, Catholicism, and Prairie mysticism, thanks in part to one of Lilburn's own essays that serves as a postface. ''

- Georges Fetherling, Seven Oaks, May 2007

``Lilburn stands in awe of, and has come as close as humanly possible to capturing, the magnitude and magnificence of creation. ''

- John Cunningham, Arc Poetry Magazine, Volum 61, Winter 2009

``[T]he introduction and afterword helped me to understand my own responses better, sharpened my appreciation for a poetry that allures and eludes at the same time. ... Lilburn writes this section [the Afterword] with panache, challenging the ordinary and humdrum way of seeing the world. ''

- Paul W. Harland, Journal of Canadian Poetry, January 2009

``Readers are bound to appreciate Lilburn's collection, not to mention the welcome inclusion of his afterword which reads like a biography, an essay and a meditation on the quiet power of poetry. ''

- Darlene Shatford, Canadian Literature, Number 195, Winter 2007