I am a long-time admirer of the zany poetry of Robert Priest – never more so than I am after reading the poems in his latest volume. It is titled Reading the Bible Backwards and the publisher is ECW Press. The poetry is not only zany, it is inventive in the way that the late Robert Zend’s prose and poetry is full of astonishing revelation-like inventions.
Robert Priest’s book is anything but “priestly,” for it reverses the catechism, so to speak, so that the Crucifixion takes place before the Nativity. (This notion is novel but not really new; it occurred to the French metaphysician Denis Saurat way back in the 1940s, though I believe the idea was a spontaneous eruption in Robert’s crowded cranium, for he makes singular use of it as well as other “time-reversals” – time is a constant in the collection if nowhere else in the cosmos.)
I decided to “thank” Robert by sending him a volume of my own, a collection titled One Word Poems (BSDB, 2007), which consists of “portmanteau-like poems or effects.” Robert is a man who is generous in his enthusiasms, for he responded favourably and quickly. He acknowledged receipt of the book in the following email message:
john, what a great book. i love it. not that i’ve read it all yet because one has to take time with it. that’s part o what i love – the way you have to read with a ‘beginner’s mind’ as they say in meditation. you can’t just let a word slip into the usual neural patterns – it’s a brain re-boot – requires fresh reading. obviously those heel prints i saw in front of me as i did my own explorations were yours. thanks so much — you deserve much more credit for this aspect of your talent than you get. ‘one gift obscures another’ to coin a phrase.
i doff my hat
It’s a very lovely “thank-you” message from Robert. The two of us are twins travelling along on the same beam of light!