Exculpatory Lilies by Susan Musgrave

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112 pages
Final manuscript available now


World: McClelland & Stewart, September 2022


Susan Musgrave (Photo:Dawna Mueller)
(Photo: Dawna Mueller)

Susan Musgrave is the author of nineteen books of poetry, numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, and several books for children. She has been the recipient of multiple awards including the Matt Cohen Award, the BC Book Awards, and Taste Canada Awards. She lives in Haida Gwaii where she is the proprietor of Copper Beech House.

Exculpatory Lilies

a book of poetry by Susan Musgrave

From the award-winning poet known for her bracing honesty and sharp yet compassionate gaze, here is a new collection of poems that explore life, marriage, addiction, death, and heart-wrenching grief.

A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book

“Her artistic presence over the past 40 years has helped create who we are. She is as important to us as Emily Carr.” — PATRICK LANE

If grief is the willingness to be claimed by a story bigger than ourselves, Susan Musgrave writes, “in that / tender wavering, I let grief in.”

"Writing about grief or tragedy is tricky. Hard to meet it at a heart-level without being effusive; hard to meet it at a brain-level without being cold. Hard not to make it about ourselves. Hard to meet it at a visceral level because it can take us out at the knees," wrote author Carrie Mac, responding to the death of Musgrave’s partner, Stephen Reid, in 2018. (Following this traumatic loss, in September 2021 their daughter, Sophie, died of an accidental overdose after a twenty- year struggle with addiction.)

But to say this is a collection solely about grief would be to miss the whole nature of Musgrave’s voice and sensibility. Wit is one counterpoint; the natural world is another. The poems share a landscape whose creatures, minutely observed, wild and tame—the winged ones most of all—dance attendance on the helplessness of our brief and mystifying human lives. Throughout "Exculpatory Lilies", Musgrave’s alertness to even the most desolate places makes her personal sorrows astonishingly potent; and her scrutiny of language and emotions makes shot silk out of sackcloth and ashes.

In a future as distant as myth, a flock of birds sets out on a dangerous journey to prevent the extinction of their ancient enemy, humanity.


“Enough tragedy to break your goddamn heart. But also enough craft to parse it for her readers. These poems might be bitter pills but they're coated with artisanal chocolate and gold leaf.” — WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“Musgrave at her funniest. She hasn’t lost her edge; in fact, she’s been sharpening it.” — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Musgrave writes short, pristine poems, with the elegance of fresh tracks on snow. Her poem’s stark lines are freighted with wisdom deep enough that I’ve yet to scrape the bottom.” — DALHOUSIE REVIEW

“Through the collection’s quiet, mindful acceptance of sorrow, Musgrave has managed to suck the pain out of it. Sorrow simply becomes another way to experience beauty.” — PACIFIC RIM REVIEW OF BOOKS





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