Reading the Bible Backwards.


120 pages
ISBN 978-1-55022-835-9
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Bernice Lever


Robert Priest uses a funhouse mirror to rearrange everyday language into these exotic poems. Reversing stories to their diminishing beginnings is a basic model for his visionary prose in the first half of Reading the Bible Backwards. In this walking backward in plot—even leaping to first starts—verses dwindle to meaningless voids. Memories of sacred parables and psalms erase themselves until the reader is pressured to consider: what if the Bible did not exist? What if this whole historical and religious encyclopedia of Jews, Christians, and Muslims did not exist? 


With his wry humour and rhythmic cadences, Priest (an appropriate name) challenges his readers to examine their beliefs and actions. Does a spirit world exist?


Several of his “Meme Splice” poems explore the power of labelling and biases. Many propositions in his “Face/Faith” and “Angle/Angel” are connected in another piece, “The Backward Church”: “God prays to the people/But they don’t listen.”


Listing poems in ironic rants, often as prose statements, such as Priest’s “Cough Log,” “Love is Bigger than Me,” and “Waving to a Photon,” expand a reader’s metaphysical vocabulary as they add more dimensions to our human condition.


In the second half, Priest moves his investigating lens on the prisms of contemporary life, Canadiana, poetry, and family. His book ends with insightful, unusual love poems: “What I Don’t Know” and “I Love You Forwards” which are memorable, endearing creations from his softer vocabulary. Robert Priest’s poems will speak to many generations.


Priest, Robert., “Reading the Bible Backwards.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,