Robert Priest of Toronto is one of that small group of Canadian artists who has been successful in both the literary and musical fields. He has published many books of poetry and prose including The Visible Man (1979), Sadness of Spacemen (l980), The Man who Broke out of the Letter X (l984), and The Mad Hand (l988 — recipient of the Milton Acorn Memorial People’s Poetry Award.) In l992 The Mercury Press published Scream Blue Living: New & Selected Poems. Now Magazine described this collection as: “Intoxicatingly Lovely;” while the CBC’s Journal wrote: “Priest’s Poetry is serious and erotic. That range has created a body of work that reflects every colour of the rainbow.”
His most recent collection Resurrection in the Cartoon (ECW press) is in stores now. “Relentless in its assessment of contemporary culture, the mordant irony, brutal honesty, and remarkable sensitivity of Priest’s surreal prose poems, lush lyrics, confessions, psalms, slams, songs, sayings, and parables creates a poetic crucible in which the Canadian “melting-pot’’ is purified of its hypocrisies and reclaimed, ultimately, in the joy of language.” Robert Priest is equally acclaimed for his rock music performances and recordings. Accompanied by his excellent band — The GREAT BIG FACE, Priest has been an energetic presence in the downtown music scene and has drawn national media attention for his explosive style and incisive lyrics. His first recording — The Robert Priest E.P. drew the following accolade from FM Magazine: “He is a rare hybrid — a poet who can as easily compose hummable melodies as sing them with power.” This effort was followed by two video-accompanied singles — the ground-breaking pop-poem anthem, Congo Toronto and Broken Star both of which received wide airplay on Much Music (National TV) and on 102.1 — The Edge (FM). In l990 Coach House Press released an audio tape: Rotweiller Pacifist, which contained a generous selection of both poems and songs and richly explored the area where these two disciplines overlap.
In l992 Robert’s poetry brought him to the attention of Alannah Myles with whom he penned the hit, Song Instead of a Kiss, which was a number one song for 2 weeks in Canada (including 6 weeks in Quebec) and earned Robert a Socan air-play award. One of his song-poems, Poem for the Ancient Trees, is featured on the Virgin Records Poetry CD, WordUp, while a video of another poem, Inflation, has been shown on both MuchMusic & the Bravo Network. Robert’s most recent CD Tongue’n’ Groove, features a smorgasbord of poems, songs, sayings, chants and iterations. “Somewhere between Prince and Bob Dylan, a little to the left of Allen Ginsberg, in the footsteps of John Lennon.” Priest’s reputation as a poet and songwriter of substance continues to grow not only in Canada, but throughout the world. In 1995 Robert visited Hawaii, where a show, based on his poetry and songs was presented at the University in Honolulu. Meanwhile his poetry is being translated into Chinese, French,& Spanish and is widely anthologized. Last year his children’s play Minibugs & Microchips — a hit for Toronto’s YPT — won a Chalmer’s Award. while his latest book of poetry, Resurrection in the Cartoon was nominated for the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award. The Toronto Star’s Peter Goddard has written — “He has the city’s every which way energy in his blood. You can read the city in his writing… If we had a poet laureate, then Priest should be it.”