Walter Hildebrandt


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A vivid and exploratory poem on the life and ideas of Spinoza…

While reading Leonardo Padura’s novel Heretics Hildebrandt became fascinated by the tolerance that existed in Havana Cuba, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. These two cities became havens and harbours for Sephardic Jews initially driven out of the Middle East by Romans, then persecuted in Spain and Portugal by the Inquisitions of the Catholic Church. Hildebrandt uses a wide variety of people and characters to bring us a greater understanding of the two remarkable cities. These include Rembrandt, Spinoza, and the fictional characters detective Mario Conde, Elias and Judy from Heretics. This long poem is powerful, thought-provoking and engaging. Like his other long poems, Hildebrandt draws on an array of disciplines and forms, including history, culture, philosophy, fiction and diverse lyric and narrative poetics. In these troubled, increasingly intolerant times, Conatus is an important read.

Spinoza’s humans are at one with nature, can have adequate ideas (no evil, no outside god). In wayward history he affirmed a joyous mindful life. Hildebrandt finds his conatus resonant with Indigenous culture. After a recap of Jewish history, a sidestep to the complex reality of post revolutionary Cuba, he spins us back to Amsterdam, to Rembrandt’s just people, people persisting in the shadowy earthen real.
~ Charles Noble, author of What Can I Say? and Mack the Naïf

Historian and poet Walter Hildebrandt was born in Brooks, Alberta and now lives in Edmonton. He was the Director of University of Calgary Press and Athabasca University Press. He was awarded the Gustavus Meyers Award 1997, for outstanding work on human rights in North America, for his book The Spirit and Intent of Treaty 7. His long poem Sightings was nominated for the McNally-Robinson Book of the Year in Manitoba in 1992. A previous volume of poetry, Where the Land Gets Broken, received the Stephan G. Stephanson for best poetry book in Alberta in 2005. This is his thirteenth book of poetry.

ISBN 978-1-77171-328-3
88 pages
8 x 9
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