Monday, December 29, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


ISBN-10: 1-55022-835-8
ISBN-13: 978-1-55022-835-9
5.5 x 8.5 in, 120pp, paperback
$16.95 CAD
October 2008
a misFit book

Robert Priest’s new book, Reading the Bible Backwards, displays his usual multi-dimensional creativity manifested, as the back cover blurb puts it: “in reverse engineering the word, meme splicing, morpheme replacement therapy, phonetic modifications” Priest’s poetic oeuvre reflects a child’s commitment to the spiritual policy of: for Poetry I will grow up just enough. Life and language is his sandbox.

Reading the Bible Backwards is another toss-up of his mischief with linguistic orthodoxies, abiding by the dictum of SHELLY, Percy Bysshe; “…if no new poets should arise to create afresh the associations that have thus been disorganized, language will be dead to all the nobler purposes of human intercourse.” Priest takes the well-worn laundry of language thru several spin cycles, presenting them all haut couture strutting down the catwalk of this anthology.

Yes, there is a gimmick here, the unraveling of the Bible-dna thread that has all too often constricted the larynx of our imagination. He has recycled and liberated cultural orthodoxy, let the dogmas out to lose themselves into the light. Gimmicks can be dangerous. Successful gimmicks have the unfortunate enticement of becoming a rut, but Priest has always known when the cow has been milked dry and moves on to other langscapes of poetry.

Priest’s gimmick is declared up front in the title of the book. He becomes the Priesthood re-verse-ing sacred narrative to refresh meaning; forward to the past. The book kicks off with the liberation of Jesus from the Cross and moonwalks us into BC. Many poems are edged in cleverness, and weighted with wit; “…turn the other cheek, or I’ll turn it for you.”

His meme splice poems provide a clever utilization of a concept which provides many fascinating sub-concepts that sub-verse the orthodoxies of language. In this regard, the Priesthood becomes the Priest hoodlum, a collaborator with Richard Dawkins, wiping the dirt of dogma from the windshield of our culture, joysticking it in re-verse, backing out of the cul de sac of unsalvation onto the main Free Expression Freeway. It is wreck-creation as recreation to re-creation.

The FACE-FAITH MEME SPLICE poem is rich WOW moments. “Just another pretty faith”, “You can‘t faith the truth“, “Utterly two-faithed”, “The faithless masses”, “To look into the very faith of God.” Unfortunately, I read this poem first and it set me up for disappointment with subsequent meme splice poems; they did not contain the same intensity of WOW-WIT found in FACE-FAITH.

The Priest hoodlum takes on one of the most famous poems in the Bible: the Lord’s Prayer. While I enjoyed the in-verse of its contents, I do wish he had spent sufficient time to conform to the cadence of the prayer. It is too well known, it’s rhythms deeply embedded in us all, so dissonance is instantly recognized. Priest’s re-versed prayer is cloak of many colours that is ill-fitting.

PUTTING UP BABEL is a poem that I regard as quintessential Priest:

“…if someone
Unifies the language
We go dialectic, megalexic
We get all slang on them

And at the top
Having stopped
At the end of atmosphere
We’ll lean out
High over god and all the angels
And shout as one
A trillion words for sky

Backwards to star words from the big bang of Priest’s imagination, and from the sky he brings us down to the debris of Babel, selecting nuggets of neologism, and scattering them on the page like treasure, like a filthy-faithed child bursting through the kitchen door and detonating with delight; Hey-look-what-I-found! “Mass Martyrers”, “ terrortorial”, “immurderate language”, “banksters.”

Our Children Are Explosive is wonderfully simple, the premise in its title. I read the poem as if it were a fuse, following the sizzle to its detonation. Children are the perpetual treasure of our continuity. They ensure evolution until Priest describes them as a “famine waiting to happen.”

This Priesthood of Poetry, or more aptly, Priest hoodlum of poetry, contains dark diamonds of compressed cynicism acquired from living beyond his gamble with pre-destiny or pre-dysentery. There a few mediocre poems in this collection. The gimmick of Re-Verse does not work in and of itself. There is no poetic imagination in the assertion that God is Great to Nothing is God. But mediocrity can be found in any collection of Neruda, Eliot, Blake, Byron.

One characteristic of Priest’s poetry that I find incredibly enriching is the exquisite tenderness of his romantic poetry.

The Sail Cannot
Deny the wind
How can I deny
My love
You move me
You send me
I have crossed barriers
I never dreamed
With you behind me.

I love how Priest spills his imagination, brilliant debris, in his neologisms, carrying us through time, unravelling the narrative-spine of Western culture, deconstructing and reassembling and playing god with language, plunging into lleH & re-Versing out to Heaven, leading us all to the salvation of love as exemplified in the last poems of this collection:


I love you for words
I love you for songs
The two us holding a dream between us
Centring the inkblot
Circling the unattainable
Giving symmetry something
To arrange itself around.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Don't say Merry Christmas to me!
The War on Christmas is better known as being inclusive
Susan G. Cole, NOW Magazine

Tell me something: Does anybody think
Irving Berlin's estate needs another infusion? No, right? So why do the malls start piping in Berlin's hit White Christmas alongside all those other Christmas chestnuts starting as early as November? We get the same 17 songs for six weeks. Where's the creativity here?

NOW Magazine’s professional social scold, Susan Cole, warns her readers to “be inclusive. Say Marry Christmas only to people you're absolutely sure celebrate that holiday. Play it safe with the rest of us”

I’m having social shivers already. Is Ms Susan Scold advising us that half the population in the public domain have short wicks, are escapees from Anger Ms Management Spas, and are likely to Ms Behave Badlee if one of those Christians utters something identifiably Christian?

Although I’m an atheist, I don’t have the social arrogance to scold people in the public domain for the equivalent of wearing a necklace bearing a Cross or Star of David or Crescent Moon or whatever, outside their clothing, rather than wearing it inside their clothing for fear of an encounter with some tight-ass Ms Retro Grundy.

“Play it safe with the rest of us,” she warns, or what? be dragged to the newspeak enforcement agency of political correctmess?

Cut a little slack, Susan.

Loosen up, Susan.

Visit Enemas R Us, Susan (I’ll give you a gift card – unlimited repeats)

Don’t make me call in the Bigotry Busters to deflate your intolerance of Christian practices.

I’m curious about the delineation of Cole’s bigotry. If an imam mounts a minaret to call for prayer five times daily in her neighbourhood, would her reaction be: “Call for prayer only to people you’re absolutely sure respond to that call. Play it safe with the rest of us.”

Susan Scold needs a big time-out from proselytizing her strict 24/7 disciplinary regimen. She’s become a grumpy old social nag worthy of tenure in the bureaucrazy of a Human Rights Triburinal.

Bemoaning the lack of creativity, Susan Scold points to the futility of “trying to get a card that’s not holiday related.” (Excuse me a moment, while I get some tissue)

If she wasn’t bereft of creativity herself, she would do what many individuals in the Creative Class do – MAKE OUR OWN CARDS!!!!

Making your own cards has a hint of anti-corporate subversion, but Cole’s consumerista inclinations prefers shopping off the rack; how cold and impersonal! Making one’s own cards and distributing them to loved ones couldn’t be more personal.

In 1984, Orwell described how newspeak cards were designed with several politically correct felicitations -- one would cross out all the felicitations that did not apply before sending it on to their loved one. Making your own cards, not buying off the rack, is the kind of subversive act I suspect Jesus would be more inclined to bless.

I trust anyone who ever receives a card from Susan Scold will now know that it’s an off-the-rack cheap industrial-strength corporate-approved-for-distribution card and reciprocate accordingly. Furthermore, the recipient of the card should also appreciate that Susan Scold has little patience with xmas crowds, so it is unlikely that she has sufficient patience to browse through the 100 or so off-the-rack cards to select the one she thinks will most closely suit the recipient.

Susan Cole suffers from a self-inflicted disability. Her lack of creativity (mediocrity) is an unfortunate result of her pathological piety to the conforming pressure of politically correct orthodoxy.