Previously Feared Darkness, a captivating tome of poetry from Canadian Poetry
Icon Robert Priest. Robert Priest, writer of 19 books of prose, poetry, and CD's,
is a children’s author and singer/songwriter, bon vivant and man about town, the modern day
answer to the legacy of Canadian Poet Robert Service, poetry icon.
The Bard of Canada lives in mountains espousing the truth, inspiration and often humor, paints vignettes of the greats, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Milton Acorn and presenting Mr. Harper, observations of politics, poets, love, the New World and peace. As if influenced by the Counterculture Revolution of the 1960’s, flower power, free love and peace activism, the hope of this era emerges in a rambunctious, masculine, heterosexual work that is entertaining, direct connect and righteous. The Modernist influences extend to capitalization of each beginning line, a poet in step and saying his piece, “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”
Though waiting had happened
On the 4 a.m. bus
Out of nowhere
We waited and we waited some more
But nothing came
Nothing came to nothing
And so we sat with that
Till it was a place
Or a being
In fact it was us
This locus of nothing
And it hurt like hell
Nothingness in us
Tugging at us
Wanting to be something
If we go on waiting I believe
The bus will arrive
And we will once again
Have nothing in our arms”
and the touch of Existentialism and sisyphicus all rolled into waiting at a bus stop at 4 a.m., perhaps after a party at a bar, and you know he was actually there at that bus stop, waiting.
This Writer liked the beautiful tomes on love:
From Between Your Disconnection and Mine
“you need to say “love” precisely
love, love, concision has made me strange
I cut corners in words
I should have found you by now
everything points toward you
the very land leads down
we’ll wind up in
the same gullies
no matter what
we’ll be at the crest
of the same waves
still not making
I will stand with you
at the very feet of god
and neither you nor I
will finally nod
we could break
all the great spells
of time and circumstance
with a glance”
“Love is not the answer
It is the question
It is the command.”
“The sky is a search-engine with only one name in it: the beloved.”
This poetry has weight, it is a man’s view of life and modern life Canadian. Also, within the book of poetry are some male humor pieces, as in V – “When Churchill flashed his famous V sign/ It wasn’t for victory/ As everyone says/ It was for vagina”; from The Waistland – “And there are fat arses/ Bigger than the backs of buses/ Bursting with vile gases . . . “This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang/ But hemorrhoids” perhaps a parody of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland; Just a Wee Bit About Fucking and Asshole Sky.
As this Writer read this book of poetry I quietly envisioned a bar on Bay Street in Toronto in the evening peopled with the men from the newspaper, marketing and business shops all dressed in the same suit, the same shoes and all reading Robert Priest.
Near the end of the work are a series of poems with “Meme Splice” in the title with a play on two similar words, “Iron/Irony”, “Country/Cunt”, "Crisis/Christ", "Breast/Beast", "Honour/Horror" etc. an interesting concept (for Poets there is often this dichotomy in writing where 2 interchangeable words will present themselves for one spot in a line in a poem) however I found it hard to read, of the masculine and hard edges, like a bad Canadian winter where someone had died, yet I was also struck by the power of it.
The poetry is also at times political, perhaps noting the less employment of the Computerized Economy:
Definitions and Titles
"Pooration: 1. the process of making a populace poor 2. pooration to the point where cuts are made to the core essentials of life is known as core pooration.
See also: povertization and topple down economics
See also: prausterity"
As if taking the pulse of the New World, the Poet as Bard painting a postcard of now, Previously Feared Darkness by Robert Priest.
Available from Amazon.ca.
This brilliant Chapbook, Albanian Suite is the gift of Hugh Thomas. Poet
Thomas lives and works in Fredericton, New Brunswick as a mathematics professor
at the University of New Brunswick. He has published Franzlations, “a collection
of illustrated Kafka remixes”, chapbooks and been published in various journals
1cent #404, Numero Cinq, BafterC, dig, the Dusie poetry blog amongst others.
In the Acknowledgments, he presents his work as having spun off the poems of Albanian poet Visar Zhiti amongst others, not as a strict translation, because he does not understand Albanian, but this Writer suspects in the true spirit of Albanian.
In the background, down some cobblestone street on a rainy day, Paul Simon sings, “April, Come she will” “When streams are ripe and swelled with rain;/ May, she will stay,/ Resting in my arms again.”
This Writer appreciates and revels in the thick, rich images, as if paintings of a certain noblesse oblige, the lost and present circumstance of decay of the old world Europe, in the new. The metaphors in poetry drip with love and remorse and the passage of time, as if the stone remains despite the rain. From Music I heard with you, “The choir in the clouds hums a Bach cantata/ but someone in the world is coughing/ and Bach is galloping on horseback/ gazing into his crystal of disinterest./ The fierce demons pursuing him/ now just seem wistful.”
As if the last line of defense, the poetry can be heavily laconic as in The Strange Mine of Pork Poetry – “Not enough, those phased lectures of miasma given by a mime – I plugged myelf into the electrical circuit, getting an immediate shock./ The stratagem that sold me the ruins offered drums and furniture, contact with poets leery of bestsellers, literary arms, or –sob!-restaurant meals./ We made examinations down the strange mine of pork poetry, grew wings, became curious about the flowering shrubs among the ruins of ten maps and the vaults of fish.” Also in Sappho II – “cadence address catch dreams/ pays and agree, chlorate of poems,/ empathic, the old epidemic/ things themselves”.
Tucked into the body of the work are two beautiful New Age "translations":
"After so many
out come the stars
I breathe in
by the sky’s
in an eternal
(translated from the Italian of Giuseppe Ungaretti)
"When night comes,
I stand on the steps and listen,
stars are swarming in the garden
and I stand in the dark.
Listen, a star just fell with a clang!
Don’t walk on the grass in bare feet;
my garden is full of shards."
(translated from the Swedish of Edith Sodergran)
As if one long lament on love lost, the corruption of love in post-modern times, the passage of time, the grey and violence of post-modern times, the hard technocracy, the unsatisfactory nature of postmodern poetry, perhaps how everything has grown old. As if the world has existed inside some long ago war for too long.
Key of Roses, Bruges
for maria erskine
"Demobilized pigeons throng the park
where something happened.
We wait for each other. We cross the pool,
raising barely a ripple.
Some mythological animal
-you said griffin, I said narwhal-
stopped us with an extended claw,
said something in Flemish about life and gardens.
The windows were illuminated even if we weren’t,
and there was dancing among the chimneys.
Overhead, let down on a string out of heaven,
a glockenspiel, as such a total disappointment!"
A celebration of the New Age in poetry, thick with European sensibility and the love diaspora N.A. A fantastical read of Old World Europe, Albanian Suite by Hugh Thomas.
Available at above/ground press.
vertigoheel for the dilly is a fantastical Chapbook by Pearl Pirie that is a revelation of the Canadian fascist undertoad of the New Age.
Poet Pirie has published 2 books of poetry with a third volume coming from BookThug in 2015. She lives in Ottawa and has launched chapbooks, blogs,
a micro press and is a radio host, occasionally teaching poetry workshops.
As if howlin’ and howlin’ big at the moon, the enigmatic often dislocated wordscapes present a game, to see behind the curtain, what is being said, not said, what is happening, not happening, a truncated presentation, of the life and times in 21st century N.A. The seemingly disembodied thoughts brought together for a couple of lines, a free flowing Zen of creativity and landscape within very broken places.
The themes presented include ill health/growing old, the state of the ecology/the 21st century, a missing father, sex and conflicted love lives.
“polyps in the colon complement the diverticulosis./ a sort of spilled lego in the digestion.”
“Living La Vida Ibuprofen. Neutral sparrows/ are not imbued with mites.”
and the long poem goes on to mention the ecology of the oceans,
“the seas are emptying, the only choice left/ is the fish in the barrel. breed, fish, breed.”
About ¾ of the way through the long poem there is presentation of a missing father:
“the poem takes the sidewalk chalk “welcome home dad”/ powerwashes off the “wel”, or adds a chalk outline of a child.”
“in the market, rows of bouquets/ father is gone, doesn’t care which colour.”
In the background as if in dialogue with the Reader is the unfolding of a story of conflicted love perhaps the product poetry the manifestation of an underground war. It begins slowly,
"it's as romantic as the attachment of a couple's/ cuddle-bed-sores, growing into one scab."
“for all its 7,200 square kilometers it’s a small country really and time’s a bullet train across it. our time? oh, not ours.”
“look at the lupines, inhale the hummingbird. these are the panacea, the cancellation of everything short of Auschwitz.”
“‘hyperlogalia medical’. Did you mean hyperlocal paralegal? um,/ no. I mean stories overflow any social container or contentment./ only lack of mutual is pathological. otherwise, all glows.”
and like a dirge, the dance, the long poem heats up:
“frost-slapped cheeks applied via Avon, ‘talk to him’ you instructed,/ rub his hands, keep him with us. (we never had touched.)"
“sanguine sans glum, stand-up, wipe sebum, beach bum,/ I’ve been dead to you for 4 changes of addresses.”
As if drawing from the tradition of poetry influenced by war, perhaps T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, the introspective and disconnected thoughts in vertigoheel for the dilly are a distinctly Canadian take on a Western world bound by war.
Often poems work on different levels, something about the poem, draws you in, becomes somehow about you or about anyone that reads it, it becomes about us. vertigoheel for the dilly, a very powerful read from The People’s Poet, Pearl Pirie.
Available at above/ground press.