The Three Roberts: Premier Performance


40 pages
ISBN 0-919957-08-0





Reviewed by Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson was Reference Librarian at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.


The 21 poems in this collection were performed by “The Three Roberts” at Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto on January 29, 1984. I wish that I had been there, because this book is not only thoroughly delightful as poetry to be read out loud, but it also happens to contain first-rate poetry from a passive reading standpoint. All three poets are innovators in their own right, and all have published previous collections. Mr. Zend, who is both poet and radio producer, knows a lot about performing; Mr. Priest is also a singer-songwriter; and Mr. Sward is also a freelance broadcaster. They have managed to reach a conceptual empathy in this collection despite their obvious stylistic idiosyncracies. Aside from the obvious sense of play manifested throughout, the main themes of the poems are woven around each other, and the effect is contrapuntal and quite lyrical:

Love, I love you; Death,

I love you;

and some other things, as well,

I love you...

Extraordinary, one-legged

Tijuana whore; I love you, loved


—Robert Sward, “Hello Poem”

Poems of perception, identity, and compassion, silly poems such as Mr. Zend’s “Romance on the Beach” and Mr. Sward’s “Lagoon Goon,” and quasi-religious Jesus poems fill this collection. What a lot of fun this book is: it positively crackles with creative energy and sane insanity. Highly recommended.


Priest, Robert, Robert Sward, and Robert Zend, “The Three Roberts: Premier Performance,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024,