On Thursday, October 3, Robert Hilles will be holding a book launch to present his new collection of poetry, Shimmer. The event is from 6:30–7:30 pm at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library.
Hilles lives on Salt Spring Island, and is a faculty member of the Creative Writing department at VIU, teaching both poetry and fiction. A master of his craft, his oeuvre is extensive and admirable, to say the least; Shimmer will be his seventeenth book of poetry and twenty-second published book overall. Hilles won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1994 for Cantos From A Small Room, and that same year also won the Writers Guild of Alberta George Bugnet Award for his first novel, Raising of Voices, along with the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for best book of poetry for Wrapped Within Again: New and Selected Poems in 2003. His latest book of poetry, Line, was published by Black Moss Press in 2018. Other publications include Finding The Lights On, Near Morning, Nothing Vanishes, Kissing The Smoke, Breathing Distance, Somewhere Between Obstacles and Pleasure, Higher Ground, Slow Ascent, Partake, and Time Lapse, many of which have been shortlisted for awards.
Shimmer is a series of love poems. “The theme of the book is definitely love,” Robert said. “I have strived to write contemporary love poems that explore the deep complexities of love in a way that is relevant today. Some of the later poems in the book are tributes to writers that I admire like Lorca, Tolstoy, and Auden. Also in that section, there are poems for my mother who died in 2012, and metaphysical poems. Some of the love poems also at times touch on metaphysical concerns because often as we contemplate love, we arrive at the metaphysical too.”
When asked about what inspired him to write this collection, he said: “The poems in this book more than any I have published before have a deep unity around the exploration of love. These poems celebrate the beloved and it is that desire to celebrate and capture the joys and complexities of love that drove me to write most of the poems in this book. The poems came from a deep place of feeling more than any of the poems in my earlier books.”
A labour of love in itself, the poems were written over the course of a couple years and went through a rigorous editorial process.
“The poems in this book span about a two-year period and went through many drafts before the final versions in the book. For me, writing is both inspiration and perspiration. That means that the initial impulse that produces the first draft may be the inspiration but that is just the first step,” Robert said. “I then leave poems for a long time before I revise them. When I do revise them I do many drafts of each poem. This time I also submitted poems to a number of magazines and so some of the poems in the book were first published in magazines. Those ones I revised early and many times too before I submitted them to magazines. Writing for me, whether fiction or poetry, requires many drafts to get just the right wording. Most of the poems in this book were revised over about a one year span and most went through many drafts before the versions that appear in the book.”
Copies of the book will be available to purchase at the launch for $19. For more information on Hilles, you can check out his website at www.roberthilles.wordpress.com. You can also find him on Twitter @rhilles.