Metaphysical Dictionary

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We've been amazed and moved by the reception for Svetlana Lilova's Metaphysical Dictionary. Readers have called it profound, moving, dazzling, delightful, and most of all inspirational. It's one of the all-time bestsellers at Toronto's knife | fork | book poetry store; we've lost track of the number of notes we've received from people buying copies for friends and relatives. This little volume, with its clever Graham Falk illustrations, is a rare glimpse into the poetic workings of the poet's mind. For those who take its cue - and there are many - it becomes a prompt to examine your own relationship to the world.

Metaphysical in methodology, psychological in scope, poetic in presentation. And those drawings!

Svetlana Lilova's Metaphysical Dictionary is a compendium of oblique definitions; a taxonomy of gists.

Psychological and emotional in content, yet pared down to the bare minimum and presented with complete lexical discipline, the Metaphysical Dictionary shows us an author grappling to explain the world to herself. Maybe this is something you do too - in fragments of thought in a journal, or in a sketchbook of brief impressions.

As poems, these are reductions, or Pound's gists and piths in extremis. They are beyond spare: all payload, no bulkhead. Sometimes an entry is simply the germ from which another poet might have grown a conventional poem. For example, witness:

shoulders   the natural uniform

The real reward comes as the definitions accumulate. They fold back on themselves; elusive shapes crystallize and dissolve like transient origami.

Psychologically acute, suffused with feeling, with a personal narrative slipping between the lines, this book invites total immersion in the private language of its creator, and conveys (us to) the heart of a playful, enigmatic, whimsical, sometimes pained but always hopeful interior.

Profusely illustrated with 65 drawings by Graham Falk, whose charming cartoons, melancholy flowers, and effervescent still-lifes perfectly echo the tonal variety of Lilova's words.

Metaphysical Dictionary by Svetlana Lilova is profound, whimsical and wise, delightfully illustrated by Graham Falk. At her recent book launch at Centennial College, the author described how, newly-arrived in Canada and never having heard spoken English, she traversed the city with a dictionary in hand. Fast-forward many years, and Lilova offers us a compass, a roadmap, a mirror and a prism through which we can distill our lived experience and inner selves in this small, elegant volume.

Marilyn Herie

This metaphysical dictionary would have driven Wittgenstein out of his formalistic mind, which is why I love this daring collection. Lilova is a veritable artist of consciousness - her poems are laconic Pollack drips of connotational calligraphy - true impressionism. Sober and surreal at once.

Pavel Somov

[Metaphysical Dictionary] is set out in a typical dictionary format ... A series of beautiful short poems and abstract sentences relating to each word. The concept of this book is so unique and the end product, in both the physical and written sense, is just mesmerizing.

This sly, whimsical debut collection by Toronto poet Svetlana Lilova is not much more than pocket-sized, but its poetic reach is expansive. Lilova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and arrived in Canada without knowing any English, so having a dictionary on hand was essential. Metaphysical Dictionary is an idiosyncratic version of that survival tool. (It’s idiosyncratic even in form: the alphabetical entries are from A to Y.) In an interview with the literary magazine Canthius, Lilova explained that she chose terms that “possess personal emotional valence and associations.” At their best, these epigrammatic gems resonate profoundly. Throughout, there’s the sense of the poet trying to drill down to the essence of feelings and motives. Anger, for instance, is defined as “a scab/some of us sometimes peel/off the raw hurt.” Elsewhere, Lilova captures the paradoxical truth of “emptiness” as “the heaviest of feelings” and “stories” as “multipliers of our experience.”
Barb Carey
Toronto Star
Svetlana Lilova

Svetlana Lilova

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, Svetlana Lilova came to Canada as a teen, not knowing a word of English. She was soon inseparable from her dictionary.
Graham Falk

Graham Falk

Canadian animator and illustrator Graham Falk created the series Untalkative Bunny, and is a lead on the series Adventure Time.