"For parents, children's music must be able to hold up to the repeated listening that youngsters often demand. And for songs to stand that test, they must have catchy lyrics as well as musical durability. That makes The Teds one act worth looking for. Made up of celebrated poet Robert Priest, composer Allen Booth and singer Djanet Sears, the Toronto-based trio boasts two of the most listenable releases available: Playsongs and Lullabies and the recent Winterlong (both on Waterlily). Performers like The Teds show that children's music has come a long way. They make songs for youngsters a truly grown-up pleasure."
– Nicholas Jennings, Maclean's, December l4 l992
"Robert Priest, in writing his second fantasy book for young readers, has crafted a great adventure-fantasy tale in the tradition of the classics. However, in following the familiar formula of quest and tests, Priest has succeeded in creating a highly original tale. Instead of the typical cast of elves, trolls, dwarves, and goblins, there exist thralls, triplicants, and wraiths of various kinds, as well as countless other beasts and beings who are all as strangely beautiful and bizarre as the spells that created them ... a remarkable first book to a promising series which will surely entertain and fascinate readers of every age. Highly Recommended."
- Andrew Laudicina, CM magazine
"I haven't enjoyed a fantasy novel as much as this in a long time. The characters are realistic and engaging and none of them are so goody-goody as to recall either Harry Potter or Cinderella. We believe in their interactions and we sympathize with their tribulations so that first off this is a story about real people coming of age. But Priest's magical system is also a stunner. He has invented a mechanical way of casting a spell - spell kones - cone shaped devices which are turned by crank handles. These stem from the great Kone itself a giant ancient paper cone upon which the foundational spells of the world are written. I found this whole system fascinating and original. Plus I love a good love story. The main character, Xemion, is a bit of a romantic despite himself and this gives the intense feeling of the novel a good grounding in his sometimes poetic musings. The overall effect of this is that of a literary novel full of colorful language, fine invention and quite believable human struggles and interactions with never a moment of pretention. Like Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Priest has left book 1 on a cliffhanger but not without giving us an initial sense of completion in the 1st stages of the love story. This is a real page turner and I eagerly await book two. 5 stars."
- Adam Warlock, Netgalley
"Dundas artist Joan Krygsman is no stranger to bright colours - her canvasses boast vibrant shades of yellow, red and blue. Her colourful portraits of Terry Fox, Rosa Parks, Louis Armstrong and Deepa Metha, which grace the cover of Rosa Rose and Other Poems by Robert Priest, are no exception. In Rosa Rose, poet Priest celebrates people who have influenced his life, from heroes at home like Elijah Harper to the anonymous man in Tiananmen Square. The collection, which is ideal for children, also introduces readers to figures they may not be familiar with like Wangari Maathai and Julia Butterfly Hill."
- Jessica Rose, Hamilton Magazine (03/10/2013)
"Rosa Rose and Other Poems is a beautiful poetry collection that needs to be on every child's bookshelf and is sure to make young readers lovers of history and poetry."
- Inderjit Deogun, Canadian Materials Magazine (20/09/2013)
"Priest is a poet-troubadour in the 1960s mode of Bob Dylan: To illuminate injustice and to celebrate struggle against it. ... This premise lies behind his latest children's-oriented book of verse, Rosa Rose, wherein Priest presents a gallery of heroes, those who suffered to achieve real liberation for the poor and oppressed, or simply to make life better for others."
- George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald (06/08/2013)
"Priest should be a household name, Previously Feared Darkness can only bring more readers to one of our best read poets. ... This book makes me remember the feeling I had when I first tackled Irving Layton and tried hammering through his books. Dense, humorous , knowing, pleading, consoling and entirely invigorating poems of the first class."
- Michael Dennis
"What's impressive about the new record - and indeed has always stood out about Priest - is the music. On disc, this poet is truly a singer and musician."
- Mark Rheame, CBC
"Uplifting. Accomplished. Sharp. Thoughtful. Brilliant. Down. Highly recommended."
- Daryl Jung, Big Bridge 2012
"This excellently produced album appeals to the musician in all of us poets yet those with a keen ear can absorb more than just toe-tapping tunes. Priest does a fantastic job conveying his literary talent into folk and light rock songs you won't soon forget."
- David Silverberg, Canadian Review of Literature in Performance
"Few performers enjoy the range and reach of Robert Priest…What’s impressive about the new record - (Feeling the Pinch) and indeed has always stood out about Priest - is the music. On disc, this poet is truly a singer and musician."
- Mark Rheaume, CBC
"Feeling The Pinch is a pleasant package from a clever messenger."
- Julia Conte, Now Magazine
"He is a rare hybrid - a poet who can as easily compose hummable melodies as sing them with power."
- FM Magazine.
"Grand and Mystical..."
- Eye Magazine
"Priest does a fantastic job conveying his literary talent into folk and light rock songs you won't soon forget."
- David Silverberg, Canadian Review of Literature in Performance
"Priest shows a depth and complexity that operates on many levels, raising his performance above a bar-room rant or a wishy-washy poetry reading to an intense experience, something akin to a trance session."
- Lucy Mallows, The Budapest Sun
"He is the voice of the people and the angels, entwined."
- Barbara Gowdy
"It's a long-playing anthem, a true protest to the ongoing, the ignored, the over watched as the work goes "beyond the cruel reach of resurrection" into the calm acceptance of a vast cyclical renewal. This is a sensational book."
- Nathaniel G. Moore, Broken Pencil
"He is certainly one of the most imaginatively inventive poets in the country...Though he cunningly and entertainingly makes use of the techniques of mass pop art, his work at its best transcends them and enters a world of a wider imagination, and a deeper socially critical commentary"
- Pacific Rim Review of Books
"The guiding thematic spirit of this entertaining collection may be backwardness, but it showcases a poet whose roving imagination is omni-directional."
- The Toronto Star
"Poetic templates Priest calls Meme Splices are used throughout the book to great effect and humour. . . . These clever exercises are not only amusing but can playfully upend the most contrived cultural sound byte, and invest it with new meaning. The poet also gives the funhouse treatment to numerous biblical narratives with irreverent glee. . . . Who knew living backwards could be so progressive?"
- Scene Magazine
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
"This is an excellent collection of prose poems by a wildly creative Canadian poet."
- Alex Boyd, Books in Canada
Priest's surprising and innovative use of language illuminates his prose, making even the dark corners of his coal-black humour sparkle. Such control and measured use of words is necessary to maintain the reader's interest in a collection chock a block full of outrages, painful sexual scenarios and over-the-top slapstick humour. How to Swallow a Pig is not run-of-the-mill Canadian literature, which prizes good feelings and serenity too highly at times. Its energy and irreverence are an invitation and opportunity for readers to take a different path through Canadian writing.
- Nathan Stark, Pulse Niagara: Niagara's weekly alternative
"Certainly the reader ends a book like this changed, having experienced nothing like it previously. The language of rapid-fire Priestian manifesto is accessible to all, making these poems appreciable by the moist brain hats of any spine. This might be the best book in the known world, and in those other-coloured worlds of the alternate dimensions Robert Priest conjures from."
- Laurie Fuhr, bloom oon surrealist journal
"This (The Secret Invasion of Bananas) is a big book! It's laugh-out-loud but it's also a very thoughtful book. These are the sorts of poems that you can read out loud. It's a great book for sharing and I think that children as they're reading through it will find the poems that they want to share and they want to read out to the rest of the family. There is word magic. It's wonderful."
- Ken Setterington, CBC Summer Book Panel
"Priest's world is colourful and peaceful, a place for kids (and everyone else) to learn and grow."
- Now Magazine
"Rich and original."
- Canadian Children's Literature
"Priest is a poet of undeniable talent."
- Quill & Quire
"In this delightful show for those four and older, a magic red hat inspires its wearers to speak in poetic riffs. Priest provides some nonsense verse for the very young and some sly political satire for their parents, but his unobtrusive theme is the power of the imagination for those of any age. NNNN"
- John Kaplan, Now Magazine
"Bright boisterous and ebullient, Minibugs and Microchips celebrates the child and the imagination in all of us. Based on Robert Priest's delightful poetry for youngsters - some of it nonsense verse animated by its own sounds, some of it laced with a sly touched of global and local politics - the musical piece dances with energy."
- Jon Kaplan, Now Magazine
"A show that tells you poetry is okay and that there are no limits to youthful imagination, even if a robot teacher believes there is…. A close listen reveals, however that many of Priest's lyrics are not silly at all - the 'kids' explore their minds and language to good effect in the service of his witty commentary on life…. A delightful fantasy."
- Geoff Chapman, The Toronto Star
"Grand & Mystic"
- Jason Anderson (Eye Magazine)
"A work of words and funky grooves that is extremely listenable ...Vote Shit elevates excrement above politicians in a way that King Missile's John S. Hall would be proud of. Ticket to Hell is great protest-and-bile folk vented in the direction of the tax man. Both soothing and biting, this is well done.
- Darren Kerr, Drop Dead Magazine
'From the short, satirical Wedding Poem, through the intensely beautiful Hera to the visionary and political Lesser Shadows, Priest shows a depth and complexity that operates on many levels, raising his performance above a bar-room rant or a wishy-washy poetry reading to an intense experience, something akin to a trance session "
- Lucy Mallows, The Budapest Sun Oct 22-28 1998
"Some of these are mellow thoughts about lovers, poems and trees, others are down right rambunctious rocking sprees or resemble the scary voices you hear in your head.. He's got a range."
- Elysia Gallo Budapest Week
"This is the edge of poetry ... there seems to be a synergous amalgamation between songs. The passing from mundane to supra-mundane torches from beginning to end is quite unique"
- Suzanne Legault Northern Life (Sudbury)
"Spoken word has always been a weird bird for me to watch fly. I've listened to lots of it: Lydia Lunch, Exene Cervenka, John S. Hall, Ann Magnuson, Steven Jesse Bernstein, Eric Bogosian -- the list of great speakers is a very lengthy one. When spoken word is good, it makes ideas into strong visuals. It's all about setting a vibe, good or bad. It gives you a good think, a good laugh or a twinge of outrage, and makes your brain dance to its own intellectual tune But when spoken word is bad, it's like Vogon poetry or a bullshit conversation. You leave with a bad taste in your mouth and your back hurts. The work of Toronto's Robert Priest fortunately falls into the former category, and here he has created a work of words and funky grooves that is extremely listenable and, in spots, very clever." Sayings" is a listing of reworked quotations like "Every little ruler wants a 13th inch," "you cannot kiss ass and kick it too" and "stop procrastinating tomorrow." "Vote Shit" elevates excrement above politicians in a way that King Missile's John S. Hall would be proud of. "Ticket to Hell" is great protest-and-bile folk vented in the direction of the tax man. Both soothing and biting, this is well done."
- Darren Kerr, Drop Dead Magazine
"(Daysongs Nightsongs) is a Canadian gem. For 2-5 year olds it's perfection itself. This should be in every child's home."
- Michelle Lansberg CBC Book Panel
"This is a lovely book! A child's garden of verses for the nineties."
- Quill & Quire
"Colourful, loaded with repetitions, and with captivating images and phrases, these poems will undoubtedly be memorized and sung for a long time to come. Highly recommended."
- Canadian Book Review Annual
"Priest has created a remarkable world in Knights of the Endless Day, a world which, like Narnia and Ursula K. Leguin's Earthsea, will remain with the reader long after the book is finished. More than a simple fantasy story, the book is filled with symbols and references that modern children will both comprehend and find meaningful. A book for children to share with the adults they love. Highly Recommended."
- Kelly L. Green (The library Journal)
"Cleverly parodies the heroic epic. Priest's use of language is a pleasure."
- Andrea Deakin, The Vancouver Sun
"Most young readers will love Knights of the Endless Day...While the plot is fantastic, Ogo's realistic character makes this book special."
- Carolyn Heiman, Times Colonist
- Books in Canada
"A hilarious rollicking spoof of epics."
- Our Choice 1994, The Canadian Children's Book Centre
"Priest offers a politically aware fairy tale whose charm is similar to that which sustains Munsch's Paper Bag Princess. ... Priest raises questions of heroism, gender roles, pacificism and environmentalism. But he is never cloying or pedantic. Sounds improbable, unpalatable? In Priest's capable hands this story is both funny and moving."
- Marnie Parsons, Canadian Children's Literature
"Non-violence and respect for the environment are two themes prominent in Knights of the Endless Day. Cleverly, they're incorporated into the show without robbing the playof its action, without turning it into a Sunday School lesson. There are enough prospects for mystery and danger to keep a young audience stimulated and excited without being terrified... There's lots of humour, notably in writer Priest's word play and in the infectious toe-tapping melodies of composer Ted Dykstra."
- Stewart Brown, The Hamilton Spectator
"The play has an enjoyably theatrical sense of fun, a desire to skewer pomposity and just the right amount of whimsy. Flamboyant combat scenes gently send up macho sword brandishing, while militarism is mocked in clever comic vignettes."
- Jill Lawless, Now Magazine
"A magical mystical musical!"
- John Coulbourn, The Toronto Sun
"There is something eternally compelling about a great quest and a great fight. Robert Priest is smart enough to know that and build Knights of the Endless Day around that theme, but he uses a wonderful new poetic language that speaks honestly to both kids and parents... Knights of the Endless Day is very timely, hopeful and happy and it suits everybody just fine."
- Laurie Brown, The Journal, C.B.C.
"Not only is this play lighthearted and entertaining, but it also has some very powerful messages for the audience. People of all ages could learn from it."
- Irene Toye, Lexicon
"It's great fun, has catchy songs, cool dancing and expounds the beauties of non- violence and environmental awareness. But the best feature of Knights is that it takes an otherwise predictable medieval fantasy and turns the whole idea of romantic chivalry on s ear...Knights is guaranteed to hold any kid's attention."
- Moira MacDonald, Excalibur
"The play is a musical (Ted Dykstra wrote the melodies) with enough acrobatic sword play, wise-cracking giants and jokes about dragon poop to keep four-year-olds high as kites. But Priest also lobs puns way over their heads for parents and for the sheer play of it."
- Val Ross, The Globe and Mail
"I was happy and excited. I enjoyed it tremendously...It's totally charming. Yes, there's a message, and there are lines like "The greatest victory is not to have to fight.", but it's slid in. What makes it work is that Robert Priest has written it with a great deal of humour... You get totally taken away. I just sat back and realized I'm smiling and enjoying it. And I felt that way all the way through it. If you have children of any age from five right on up to adolescence I'd take them and the parents will have a great time as well. "
- Richard Ouzounian, Later the Same Day, CBC
The Kingston Whig Standard Magazine
"...ideal for parents and others who can use this program at home to entertain pre-schoolers as nap-time preparation, or to work off an imbalance between boredom and excess." energy."
"The Teds deliver a sweet 20-song collection of children's music that seems as much of a child's experiences as it is about them... The music, in fact becomes a kind of psychological drive shaft for the energy and wonder of children at play."
The Toronto Star (Craig Macinnis)
"Lullabies and Playsongs is very different from anything on the kids' market today in that parents (or any adult) are as likely to love the music and lovely lyrics as their kids. Pick one up for your kids. Or maybe one for yourself."
"Full of charm and innocence... soothing and reassuring. The album never condescends. It teaches and shows resect for the child's world and the child's place in it. It's a fine addition to any child's collection; as important, adults won't quickly tire of hearing it."
The Beacon Herald
"The Teds are three very talented artists. Pre-schoolers will enjoy the gentle lyrics and soothing arrangements on Side A. The basic rock and roll beat of A Hill is a Thrill will have your toddler bouncing and jumping... guaranteed to set little feet in motion."
The Toronto Sun
Eleanor Barrington, Today's Parent Magazine
"Children's entertainment of considerable charm"
Liam Lacey, Globe & Mail
"The Boinks are smart and witty and hip kids love their songs. Their space-punk shows are wonderful exercises for the imagination. The Boinks' Summerlong L.P. is sensational."
- The Toronto Sun
"a zany new wave band that tickles the imagination with its space-age lyrics and fanciful imagery."
- Toronto Life
"No other group does what The Boinks do and I can't imagine another one that does it with such care or imagination."
- The Toronto Star
"The record has a science fiction fantasy theme, and is exceptionally well conceived and performed. It may even appeal to any adults within hearing."
- The Globe & Mail
"The songs on Summerlong do not condescend to the little ones lyrically or musically - instead they draw from a broad range of musical styles and poetic imagery to create a delightful and whimsical, yet instructive set that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike."
- Now Magazine
"Playful, sensual and fanciful."
- Quill & Quire
"Delightful entertainment for children of all ages"
- Music Express
"The most inventive entertainment for kids to appear in Toronto in years...All in all this is wonderful, slightly wacky stuff as sophisticated as kids and as naive.
- Performance Magazine
"a special kind of orchestrated mayhem designed to stretch kids' already limber imaginations and tickle their funny bones...The Boinks are providing something unusual in the genre of kiddie pop: A broad spectrum appeal..."
- The Toronto Star
"Sounds like a bestseller ... a very serious poet!"
- Peter Goddard, Toronto Star
"There's Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Pete Townshend, John Lennon and our own Robert Priest."
- Laurie Brown, The New Music
"a unique rock poet..he will no doubt pick up a large cult following... A cut above the usual!"
- RPM Magazine
"Impressive... melodic...he's a lively rock performer and a talented song writer."
- Liam Lacey, Globe & Mail
"Robert Priest is a rare hybrid - a poet who can as easily compose hummable melodies as sing them with power."
- FM Magazine
"Consistently one of the most entertaining acts in town!"
- Now Magazine
"He is a punk enchanter, singing truth through insanity and vision... a powerful and cathartic experience."
- Spectrum Arts