Robert Priest

POETRY
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Blue Pyramids READ REVIEWS READ EXCERPTS

NEW AND SELECTED POEMS
2004 (ECW)

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.

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REVIEWS

Toronto Star Jan 12, 2003

A playful, renegade Priest

Something irresistible about his fancifulness

Barb Carey, Poetry

Blue Pyramids

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

EXCERPTS

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 digital

for the Doppler Effect

just before the fall

the dance is most intense

a million moves a minute

scurrying to do

last things

meaning to build

more boats

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

and remember,

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

with praises

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

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Blue Pyramids (2004)
New and Selected Poems
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How To Swallow A Pig (2001)
Selected Prose Poems
RANDOM VIDEO!
AWARDS

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

robertpriest@rogers.com

416 466-0047

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 robertpriest@rogers.com.

All intellectual property on this website including lyrics, music and recordings is copyright 1979 - 2014 Robert Priest. All rights reserved.

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