Robert Hilles says writing poems about love is different from writing poems about anything else.
“They demand more honesty and they demand more directness and they demand more truthfulness,” he said. “You can skirt things in other poems, but if you’re writing a true love poem you need to be true in it.”
On Oct. 3, Hilles, professor of creative writing at Vancouver Island University and Governor General’s Award winner for poetry, is unveiling his latest collection of poetry at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library.
Shimmer: Love Poems, is Hilles’s first book devoted to the subject of love. He said he was motivated to write on that theme after reading a book of poems by Russian writer Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
“I realized, ‘Well, there are not that many books just mostly of love poems anymore,’” Hilles said. “I don’t know why that is.”
He said he finds that contemporary poetry is focused more on politics and experiments in language. He said loves poems are more universal and timeless.
“They tend to be true now and they’ll be true – I mean Shakespeare’s sonnets are 500 years old. They’re still true today,” Hilles said. “That’s the thing about love: It’s an enduring topic. It’s an enduring emotion. It’s key to all our lives. I think we all want to have that feeling.”
Hilles said Shimmer is inspired by his wife of almost five years Rain and many of the poems describe the couple’s day-to-day activities, like cooking dinner or going out for a drive. He said in writing love poetry there is a tendency to slip into the abstract, but the specifics are needed to keep the work grounded.
“Ironically, the specific details are what make things more lasting. And love poems come out of your daily life. If you feel love, it’s part of what you’re living…” Hilles said. “Part of it, for me, was trying to capture that feeling and to find the depth of it.”
WHAT’S ON … Robert Hilles presents Shimmer: Love Poems at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library, 90 Commercial St., on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m.