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  • Kill-site
  • Written by Tim Lilburn
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780771053214
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By the winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award for Best Book of the Year

To his virtuoso collection of new poems, Tim Lilburn brings a philosopher’s mind and the eyes and ears of a marsh hawk. This series of earthy meditations makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange. Lilburn’s close study of goldenrod, an ice sheet, or night opens into surprising interior and subterranean worlds. Pythagoras lurks within the poplars, Socrates in stones, people fly below the ground. Elsewhere, the human presence of motels and beer parlours is ominous. Kill-site is an exploration of a human’s animal nature. Lilburn invites the reader to: “Go below the small things… then / walk inside them and you have their kindness.” Though a natural progression from Lilburn’s last book, To the River, in Kill-site, the poet moves toward a greater understanding of the human, of sacrifice.



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.
Tim Lilburn|Author Desktop

About Tim Lilburn

Tim Lilburn - Kill-site

TIM LILBURN is the author of seven previous books of poetry, including To the River, Kill-site, and Orphic Politics. His work has received the Governor General's Award and the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award, among other prizes. Lilburn is also the author of two essay collections, Living in the World as if It Were Home and Going Home, and edited two other collections on poetics. He teaches at the University of Victoria.

Author Q&A

I began writing the poems in Kill-site in 1997. I knew that I wanted the book to be somehow different from my previous book, To the River; I suspected that it might turn out to be, but didn’t know how this difference would show itself. It took me some time to become comfortable with the direction the Kill-site poems took.

Kill-site is a long poem about prayer; a long poem about yet another failed expedition to track the hidden natures of things. It has seemed to me for a while that the European mind hasn’t properly settled in western North America, isn’t autochthonic here. So the book is about looking around, and where the long look could take you.

Praise | Awards


"The uniqueness of [Kill-site] rests in its eerily mystical descriptions of the natural world.…Rhapsodic.…Lilburn's insights [are] fresh and arresting."
Quill & Quire

“Lilburn’s contemplative language has a resonant beauty.”
–Montreal Gazette


WINNER 2003 Governor General's Literary Award - Poetry

  • Kill-site by Tim Lilburn
  • March 25, 2003
  • Poetry - Canadian; Poetry
  • McClelland & Stewart
  • $15.50
  • 9780771053214

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