A-R International: Robert Hilles

Robert Hilles
Authors-Readers International

Photo credit: Rain Hilles

Robert Hilles is a Canadian poet and novelist who divides his time between Nanaimo and Khon Kaen, Thailand.

Born in Kenora, Ontario, Hilles studied at the University of Calgary, earning a BA in Psychology and English in 1976. He also holds an MSc in Educational Psychology, earned at the university in 1985.

Hilles lived for many years in Calgary, Alberta and was active in the writing community there. For ten years he acted as the managing editor of Dandelion, the oldest surviving literary magazine in Alberta. He developed the magazine from a small pamphlet to one of the most respected literary magazines in Canada. During that time he also organized many successful readings featuring writers from across the country. In 2001, he moved to British Columbia and has been active in the literary community there, especially on Salt Spring Island where he lived until 2019. With other writers there, he helped to set up a scholarship for beginning writers on Salt Spring and also organized a new reading series on the island.

He served on the executive of the League of Canadian Poets for five years and in 1996 was sent by the League and the Department of Foreign Affairs to represent Canada at an International Poetry Festival in Japan. Hilles won the 1994 Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Cantos From A Small Room. In the same year, his first novel, Raising of Voices, won the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s George Bugnet Award for Novel. He has published sixteen books of poetry and five books of prose.

“I divide my time between Nanaimo BC and Thailand. In 1994, I won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Cantos From A Small Room. In the same year, my first novel, Raising of Voices, won the Writers Guild of Alberta George Bugnet Award for best novel. I have published fifteen books of poetry and five books of prose. My other books include: Finding The Lights On, Near Morning, Nothing Vanishes, Kissing The Smoke, Breathing Distance, Somewhere Between Obstacles and Pleasure, Higher Ground, Wrapped Within Again, Slow Ascent, Partake, and Time Lapse. Wrapped Within Again, New and Selected Poems was published in the fall of 2003 and won the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for best book of poetry. My second novel, A Gradual Ruin, was published by Doubleday Canada in 2004 and now is in paperback and ebook formats. My books have also been shortlisted for The Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Prize, The W.O. Mitchell/City of Calgary Prize, The Stephan Stephansson Award, and The Howard O’Hagan Award. My second non-fiction book, Calling The Wild, was published in the fall of 2005 from Black Moss Press. My thirteenth book of poetry, Slow Ascent, was published in the fall of 2006 and Partake in Spring 2010 from Black Moss Press. Time Lapse was published in 2012. I have completed a short story collection called, Release. My latest poetry books are Line (2018) and Shimmer (2019) both published by Black Moss Press.”

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When I worked at the Calgary bookstore Books ‘n’ Books during the early 80s I had the opportunity to meet many authors, mainly poets, because the store made a point of supporting and promoting the local writing community. Plus, BnB was the kind of place people liked to hang out and talk about writing and books. There were two big overstuffed chairs in the front window, right next to the cash desk, and there was usually someone sitting in those chairs, especially on a Friday evening, either chatting or reading. Robert Hilles was one of these poets who visited the store regularly, and by that point in his career he had only published three collections of poetry. Since then, Robert has gone on to publish twenty-two volumes of his writing and has won numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1994 for Cantos From a Small Room. So I really have known Robert for quite a long time! We kind of lost touch after I left that bookstore, but have reconnected within the past decade or so and I’ve done more promotion for him and his work lately. Robert Hilles is another of the authors whose work I hear read regularly on Bob Chelmick’s radio programme, The Road Home. I mentioned this programme in the A-RI promotion I did for Rosemary Griebel. In this case, though, I know that while I’m sitting on my verandah in the Caribbean listening to The Road Home, Robert is likely also listening in while in Thailand on the other side of the world!

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Shimmer: Love Poems

At the core of Governor General Award winning poet Robert Hilles’ twenty—second book and seventeenth poetry book is a series of love poems.
These poems convey love’s many nuances and express its tenuous, yet potent nature. Through precise details, the poet reveal love’s spiritual crucible. The poems are specific yet universal as they reveal love’s varied complexities. Love poems have long been a tenure of poets and he adds a contemporary take on them as he shifts between the concrete and the sublime.

Here’s what Robert Hilles is working on now: “My novel set in Thailand called, Don’t Hang Your Soul On That, will be published by Guernica Editions in 2021. (You may read samples of the first two chapters here – Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.) I am working on a book of prose poems called, A Piece of Rag Wrapped Gold (a book about the atomic age and includes poems on the Aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, Particle Physics and more love poems), and a book of flash fiction called, Pink Puppet. I am also currently working on two novels set in Canada called, To Parts Unknown and The Stoneboats, and a second novel set in Thailand called, One True Note.”

For more information on Robert Hilles, his writing and books, and where to purchase, please see his website.

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