Somewhere Between Obstacles and Pleasure


72 pages
ISBN 0-88753-327-2
DDC C811'.54





Ronald Charles Epstein is a Toronto-based freelance writer and published poet.


Calgary poet Robert Hilles is a veteran author who has reviewed books
and published 10 volumes of his own verse. His previous effort,
Breathing Distance, was shortlisted for the Milton Acorn People’s
Poetry Award. This honor should not be viewed as a “Good
Housekeeping” seal of proletarian content; Hilles emulates Acorn’s
humanity, not his gritty populism. A lot of the poetry is mildly erotic,
which is not surprising, since this book is dedicated “To Pearl Luke
with all my love.” Much of his material would not be out of place on
Lovers and Other Strangers and similar fare broadcast on “beautiful
music” FM stations. Picaresque poets might object, preferring men who
approach the subject with blazing guns. However, Hilles targets the
mainstream audience; even the act of kissing a lover’s foot is given
more dignity than it deserves.

This book is an ideal Valentine’s Day gift, but it is also a clever
Christmas present. “A Lonely Santa” is suitably seasonal, without
effusive sentiment. He sees a shopping mall Santa who “looks like my
father” and invites him to “my new house,” where “a cold Old
Vienna / waits for him in the fridge.” This piece is both topical and
wistful. His father’s spirit still haunts him. He tries to define a
man who defies easy categorization; the elder Hilles does not wear ties
or blue jeans. The perceptive poet wonders if his numerophobic Dad is
haunted by the dates on his tombstone. He is aware of mortality’s
implications; he observes his dying father staring at a hospital ceiling
and evokes the ceilings in his own future.

The book’s weaknesses are deftly handled. “A Dull Moan” may be
poorly developed, but it is placed in the back where it cannot tarnish
readers’ positive perceptions.


Hilles, Robert., “Somewhere Between Obstacles and Pleasure,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,