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Living In The World As If It Were Home

Published by Cormorant Books, 1999

Winner of the 1999 Saskatchewan Non-Fiction Award and Finalist for the Saskatoon Book Award.

Written over a nine-year span, Living In The World As If It Were Home is a careful, exquisite look at the human desire to share a home with long grass, rivers, and stones, by poet Tim Lilburn. Lilburn’s collection of essays plots the work required to roughly re-establish the conditions of Paradise; it explores the world of priaries, rivers, aspen-covered sandhills, deer country, big lakes taking on their first ice in late October, the moon rising over chokecherry thickets, and asks: how to be here?

There’s nothing glib about the answer Lilburn offers—as he says in one of his poems: “The way back will be hard, ghost road through the rooms of sorrow / moon of contemplation on our backs.” [...] But the project to live in the world as though it were home requires the recovery of the full resources of human desire. The muscle of eros needs to be made strong. To do this, Lilburn turns to those almost forgotten masters of desire, the mystics of the negative way, psuedo-Dionysius, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing and John Scotus Eriugena.

This is a remarkable collection, a “classic” as Dennis Lee says in his foreword, by a writer with passion and insight, in hopeless love with the unsayable world, the place wich “ignites awe” yet is completely vulnerable to human ingenuity.

“All Lilburn’s meditations have that animal gusto, even at their most formidably intellectual. I suspect the book in which they’ve been gathered will stand as a minor classic... Poet, contemplative thinker, hot-blooded lover of trees and rivers: is there anyone else like Lilburn? The type is rare, but it’s not unknown. In this country, you find a similar combination in Hector de Saint-Denys-Gardneau and Robert Bringhurst, to name just two... But Lilburn is his own man, and there is no need to strain for comparisons. Where he will go next is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, we have Living In The World As If It Were Home to be grateful for.”

— Dennis Lee

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