In the Blood


By Alan Hill

Categories: Poetry
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773860787, 68 pages, February 2022

In the Blood traces the relationship of two brothers through childhood to adulthood and in and out of institutions to reveal the intricate, often hidden bonds that are broken and forged by the effects of mental illness.


In his debut full-length collection, former City of New Westminster Poet Laureate Alan Hill delivers a deeply revealing and heartfelt depiction of a lifetime of mental illness—both his own and that of his brother. In the Blood traces the brothers' relationship from childhood to adulthood, and examines how his brother's diagnosis became inextricably intertwined with Hill's own mental health struggles. As his brother spends much of his life in and out of institutions, Hill grapples with his own guilt, shame, and loss. Moving from the past to the present and back again, In the Blood looks for meaning and comfort in the confusion of childhood and the untethered searching of adulthood. With stark vulnerability, Hill reveals the intricate and often hidden bonds that are both broken and created by mental illness and pushes toward a form of relief, release and recovery.


“Alan Hill’s poetry provides sharp insights bedded in imaginative leaps that blur building, body, time and social constructs. In the Blood brings together his reflections on the impacts of madness and the social responses to madness in a family, and a particular self. He maps the profound effects of cumulative confusion and deep grief on the bodymind, and the first few steps on a tentative pathway to healing.”

—Joanne Arnott, author of A Night for the Lady

"What's left after nothing is left? When you know a loved one won't be okay, how do you transform painful feelings of loss, guilt, and shame into something habitable? Against a rhythm of recurring images, Alan Hill's poems offer a kaleidoscopic view of hospital rooms, a darkened ravine, unappetizing food, ambulances, and cigarette-smoking male faces.

In the Blood is a brave book that takes a deep breath and refuses to look away. It's about how not knowing exactly what's wrong can eventually make everything wrong. And it's about how love does not always win—but it does endure—even at the risk of becoming unrecognizable to itself."

—Jeremy Stewart, author of In Singing, He Composed a Song