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Poetry Canadian

If I Didn’t Love the River


by (author) Robert Priest

ECW Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2022
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price

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In this virtuoso display of sonnets, free verse, prose poems, villanelles, ghazals, and aphorisms, People’s Poet Robert Priest makes it clear why the Pacific Rim Review has called him “surely the most imaginatively inventive poet in the country.” A profound meditation on love, death, sex, and sickness, If I Didn’t Love the River speaks directly to the polarizations of our time. Priest’s mastery of dark satire, lyric ebullience, erotic verse, and the pithy maxim is as gratifying as it is unique and will appeal to the yearning for poetry, which so often goes unsatisfied in the reading public. No emotional territory — from angst, anger, anguish, and despair to whimsical delight — is off-limits here. Intent on releasing reverberations from the full depths and heights of what it is to be human, this is Robert Priest at his protean best.

About the author

Robert Priest is known as a poet for both adults and children and has been published widely and internationally. He is also a performing musician, a songwriter and playwright (creator of the well-loved children’s play Knights of the Endless Day) and leads literacy workshops in schools. He has released numerous recordings for children with the musical group The Teds and a spoken word CD. Robert Priest lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Robert Priest's profile page

Excerpt: If I Didn’t Love the River: Poems (by (author) Robert Priest)

Love Has Nothing to Do


Love has nothing to do with the stars
except that I see them as symbols of distance
and love can be distant

It has nothing to do with rivers
but I see the river staying and going
and I remember that love leaves and remains

Love is not much swayed by the moon
but who can view the moon
and not think of love’s satellite tendencies
its shadowy diminishments

True fire — the flame is not love
but in its dance, in the light it sheds
we see what we become
when love is in us


If I Didn’t Love the River


If I didn’t love the river
how could I say I love you
If I didn’t wish for the world to thrive
If I didn’t work to change minds
that wouldn’t be love
I love you because I love tomorrow
and I want to keep it just a day away forever
If I saw hunger and didn’t dream of a feast
If I didn’t dream of children well-nourished
what would nourish my love
What would my longing for peace grow fat on
My love of justice is all wound up in my love for you
It wouldn’t be love if I didn’t love creatures running free
if I didn’t support the right of others to love
It wouldn’t be love if I gave away my voice
so others could add it to the mob
There has to be work to it, there has to be vision
If I didn’t love the scorned, the othered
If I didn’t love the children of war
how could I truly say I love anyone

Editorial Reviews

“There are few poets who can articulate love, loss and the political like Priest. And certainly not in one book. The core of his work is to make connections, to underscore the way words echo other words and how inhuman affections and the need for justice form the basis for human bonds.” — Marrow Reviews blog

“[Robert Priest’s] poetry is still as energetic, audacious, and wild as it ever was, a fact reaffirmed by If I Didn’t Love the River, his most recent collection.” — The New Quarterly

“Throughout the book, Priest blends politics and love, formalist work with free verse, and Romanticism with post-modernism. There is something in there for old and new fans of his work, and he gets his message across with much musicality and little proselytizing.” — FreeFall Magazine

“The emotional spin of his verse ranges from love to distaste, he writes in both free verse and traditional forms, and his topics are either hugely uplifting or deeply disturbing … both daring and delicate, beautiful and sometimes beastly in its truth telling.” — The Artisanal Writer blog

“There are many sublime moments in this collection and I am grateful to have discovered Robert Priest’s work. I loved the words and the rollercoaster rhythm Priest imposes on them. Once you ‘get’ his poetry, it gets you too and won’t let go … Priest utilises many styles and poetical forms with a cornucopia of themes and images; the results are sometimes delicate, often brutal, but always stunning.” — Kid Ferrous Reviews blog

“One line summary? Hell yeah. Some poets show emotion, some language, other’s technique or flashes of insight and he has the whole spread.” — The Miramichi Reader

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