Finding the Lights On


88 pages
ISBN 0-919897-27-4
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by David E. Kemp

David E. Kemp is head of the Drama Department at Queen’s University.


Given that Hilles teaches computer programming at the DeVry Institute of
Technology in Calgary and therefore cannot be considered a full-time
“professional” poet, the vision displayed in his work is
nevertheless assured, imaginative, and intelligent. What is perhaps even
more important is that the book is suffused with a deeply felt love for
the subjects he is writing about, and that the writing itself contains
elements of deep insight, true wisdom, and a clarity and readability
from which a great many other modern poets could learn.

I think Hilles is at his best when he is writing about the things that
are closest to him. In this particular collection, the poems about his
mother and his daughter are so strong in their commitment and generosity
that they genuinely bring tears to the eyes. This is not to suggest that
Hilles’s insight functions purely on an emotional level. As well as
its sensitivity and empathy, the poetry is imbued with philosophical
metaphors and is remarkable for the overall juxtaposition of imagination
and intelligence that it achieves.

Not for Hilles the confused obscurity of so much modern poetry. This is
a book that, while not sacrificing the author’s muscular intelligence,
manages to be comprehensible, insightful, and deeply personal. A joy to
read, in fact.


Hilles, Robert., “Finding the Lights On,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,