stephanie roberts was born in Central America, grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and is a longtime resident of Québec. Her poetry collection rushes from the river disappointment (McGill-Queen’s University Press) was a finalist for the 2018 Two Sylvias, Wilder Series Poetry Book Prize. She won first prize in the anthology The Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2018 from Black Mountain Press, and, in the past three years, she’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times, and Best of the Net three times. Her musically-attentive, relationship driven, layered verse has been widely featured in numerous periodicals and anthologies in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. In 2019 she was a featured speaker at VerseFest Ottawa with Arc Poetry Magazine.
Even as a voracious reader my entire childhood, often reading a book a day, I didn’t read poetry in high school. I think it was a lack of opportunity more than a lack of desire. As an immigrant, if someone doesn’t introduce you to the poetry of the culture, your chances of stumbling across it on your own aren’t strong. We read a few Shakespeare plays but I didn’t connect that lyric language to the poetic until I was older.
I won a New York State art contest at the age of eleven, but I didn’t narrow my passion for the creative to poetry until I was an adult.
I was in Montréal, by that time, and lucky enough to encounter a slowing on the autoroute of daily obligations sufficient enough to arouse re-examination of my inherited values. During that hiatus, I had a life-altering vision of hope that seemed to ache for poetic expression.
I wrote a poem, mythologizing the fraught relationship I had with my now ex-husband, which made a friend cry. That reaction was a powerful goad then (as it continues to be) for an exploration of the rigour of language to bridge distance.
Since that first tear, every evening I hope to be found guilty of the station of poet.
In 2017, in an interview for Unbound with the British journalist Bidisha, the great writer Anne Michaels said:
“It’s a privilege,” [...] “In an ideal world, you want language to transform and in my work I want that transformation to be positive and generative – even the darkness [of the content]. If we don’t know how to make darkness generative then we’re in trouble because so much of life experience can’t be sidestepped.”