From his first book, The Visible Man ("as fine a first volume of poetry as one is ever likely to read" — the Dalhousie Review), to his most recent, Resurrection In the Cartoon ("passionate, humorous, worldly-wise, kick-ass poetry" — The Vancouver Sun), Robert Priest's poetry has been the delight of critics and readers alike.
Blue Pyramids: New and Selected Poems brings together the best of Robert Priest's six books of lyric poems, spells, psalms, aphorisms, koans, diatribes, and prose poems along with an exciting new group of poems and aphorisms. Also included is a selection of never-before-published song lyrics. Relentless in their assessment of contemporary culture, the mordant irony, brutal honesty, and remarkable sensitivity of Priest's works create a poetic crucible in which the Canadian "melting-pot" is purified of its hypocrisies and reclaimed, ultimately, in the joy of language.
Toronto Star Jan 12, 2003
A playful, renegade Priest
Something irresistible about his fancifulness
Barb Carey, Poetry
New and Selected Poems
There's an early poem in Toronto poet and songwriter Robert Priest's Blue Pyramids that captures the essence of this style, which has changed remarkably little over the 30 years (and 14 books) spanned by this collection. "Slight Exaggeration OF a Childhood Incident" is a tall tale about being given a trumpet at the age of 2 and gleefully disrupting the neighborhood with it ("i bellowed down Thames Street/ leveling buildings, knocking down churches"). This aural rampage is halted only by the police.
It's a perfect microcosm of Priestliness in verse, for the adult poet is also a disturber of the peace -- namely the peace of complacency --- and a noisy adversary of authority, whether in the guise of right-wing ideology or religious orthodoxy. He blows his own horn, exaggerates to the point of absurdity and isn?t always tuneful, yet there's something irresistible about the anarchic fancifulness of his imagination.
Priest is a playful renegade, taking aim at political targets with humor rather than earnestness. His method is often to turn convention upside down. In "Several Other Uses For A Halo," for example, he suggests "use it as the brim of a hat/ the rim of a little wheel... reach for your better self/through the hole in the halo."
Behind the irreverence lurks an idealist, and he's unabashedly a family man. Priest includes plenty of rapturous love poems to his wife and fervent tributes to his children. There's no emotional holding back here, no clever posing. In one poem addressed to an infant son, he writes "your cry is an opening in me.../ in my trumpet-part/your cry is a bell in me/ringing with an awesome/emanation? Blue Pyramids itself is a kind of echo chamber, resounding with impish boisterousness and tender grace notes.
From the Publisher
One of our most readable, challenging, and important poets
From his first book, The Visible Man ("as fine a first volume of poetry as one is ever likely to read" -- the Dalhousie Review), to his most recent, Resurrection In the Cartoon ("passionate, humourous, worldly-wise, kick-ass poetry" -- The Vancouver Sun), Robert Priest's poetry has been the delight of critics and readers alike. Blue Pyramids: New and Selected Poems brings together the best of Robert Priest's six books of lyric poems, spells, psalms, aphorisms, koans, diatribes, and prose poems along with an exciting new group of poems and aphorisms. Also included is a selection of never-before-published song lyrics. Relentless in their assessment of contemporary culture, the mordant irony, brutal honesty, and remarkable sensitivity of Priest's works create a poetic crucible in which the Canadian "melting-pot" is purified of its hypocrisies and reclaimed, ultimately, in the joy of language.
"Poetry full of flashes of insight. Imaginative in a strange way, he takes inordinate chances with logic, countering absurdity with absurdity, and expanding our sense of human emotional possibilities." -- The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature
In Slow Apocalypse
I love our moment in slow apocalypse
stretching out time
with tenderness or touch
and we speak fast here
in this crammed era
grateful for distortion
for the Doppler Effect
just before the fall
the dance is most intense
a million moves a minute
scurrying to do
meaning to build
grab someone and hold them close
rear back against the drift of images
let love flow against the age
offer our resistance
even in the detonator's mouth
we sing, we burn
to turn as slowly as possible
into fire and ashes
Safe Rage With Mates
You have to direct your anger at the action
not the person.
You can say:
Your actions really anger me.
But you can\'t say:
You make me really fucking mad.
The words you make are incorrect.
They place you in the passive \"done-to\" stance.
The above statement should be reworded:
I get really fucking mad around (or at) you.
This pigpen in the kitchen makes me really angry
however, is an open statement.
It might still be you who allowed
the alleged pigpen to occur.
But don\'t curse Pig! under your breath
for this is to the person and offensive.
Why can\'t we communicate is not offensive
but so negative
so void of potential.
There must be potential even in safe rage.
I am really angry and I need to talk to you
is not a good enticement.
You should not yell
That\'s not yelling THIS IS YELLING!
If you have to yell
you must yell something non-threatening like
Don\'t be scared. I am only yelling.
It is very important not to make a fist.
As a bottom line
when the only words your rage supplies
are race/gender slurs, or suicide threats,
it is currently deemed preferable and correct
to fall to the floor
and just shriek inarticulately.
A person shrieking on the floor inarticulately
has time out
the floor is a safe zone
the floor is off limits
you must not
bare your teeth.
Revolutions (For Galileo)
i am a tall white thing that birds fly out of
that is why you see me in the morning so open-mouthed and foolish
the doctor said
\"you are upside down
you have a large wounded thing in your mouth
i would advise you to cry\"
but i said \"no doctor
you are wrong
i am tremulous and exultant-- a green strand
drawn from the throat of a flower
i am the magnet the wind arrives at finally
those are songs you see lodged in me
if i cry there will be no passion in it
i have tried again and again to throw off these robes of water
but wherever i have whirled them--
there the drunken-- the inexhaustible flowers
have followed and come groping up to me
why should i cry?\"
\"you\'re upside down\" he said
\"no\" i replied, and i began to revolve in the air
in front of him
\"you think it must be somewhere near here
that the ground is
the suicides have told you
the rain and snow have told you
it\'s down below
somewhere under the houses
but they are wrong
and you are wrong
i am that dancing man
who kicks over the jug of the stars
those are my tracks across the moon
wherever i put my feet
that is where
the ground is
The Milton Acorn Memorial People's Poetry Award, 1989
Special Choice Award, Children's Book Centre, 1993
Socan Airplay Award, 1994
Chalmer's Award, Theatre for Young Audiences, 1998
197 1/2 Jones Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada, M4M 3A2 If you want to book Robert as a singer/songwriter call 416 466-0047 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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