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Desire Never Leaves

The Poetry of Tim Lilburn

Tim Lilburn; Alison Calder, editor

Laurier Poetry Series

Paper 64 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-514-7

Release Date: December 2006

Online discount: 25%

$18.99  $14.24


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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.

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.


“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

“[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, University of Alberta, Journal of Canadian Poetry

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

“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

“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

“A welcome and strongly recommended introduction to one of Canada’s best poets.”

Midwest Book Review