Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Reader's Diary #297- Tim Lilburn: Kill-Site (FINISHED!)

I have to say, I'm not a big fan of surrealistic art. Most likely this stems from my University days when just about all my friends had a poster of Dali's "Persistence of Memory" on their walls. Maybe I just got sick of it, or maybe I thought Dali had more of a point than "Hey, look, I've tried acid." In any case, it's given me a bit of a grudge against the whole movement.

That resistance on my part made it hard for me to open up to Tim Lilburn's Kill-Site. At first everything seemed disconnected and worse, nonsensical: random images melting together with a facade of higher meaning.

Fortunately, as if often the case, many poems grew on me enough to at least enjoy them on some level. The images were pretty wild and often contrasted nicely. Plus, there was a wonderful sense of rhythm that complemented or set the mood. I'd be lying if I said I understood what Lilburn was getting at in most cases. Still, I liked the blending of thoughts with the external world, the body with the Earth and so on. Physical distinctions were kept in tact, while the metaphysical divisions were blurred:

I was in the ground and the animal came to me wearing signs.
It came out of the water moaning in stone
-from "There"

In the end, they felt like fun diversions into psychedelia but nothing more.

Those were the good ones. Too often however, I couldn't even connect with them on that level. Lilburn is a name-dropper of the worst sort. Old philosophers, religious persons, mythological beings, and mostly characters I just have no idea who they were, appear in almost every other poem. Likewise with locales. These left me totally confused and distanced. I'm still a little astounded that such an esoteric mess could win the Governor General awards. Must be a pretty smart bunch of judges.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

It sounds as though these poems were a little on the precious side.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Some had a bit of an edge to them, enough to knock them out of the precious category, but not far.