The bio on the back of Dorothy Roberts’s first collection of poetry, Twice to Flame (1961), identifies her as the sister of the painter Goodridge Roberts and the daughter of the writer Theodore Goodridge Roberts. It says nothing about her own impressive publication credentials in such prestigious journals as Hudson Review and Yale Review. Roberts, who grew up in Fredericton amid a powerhouse literary family that included her uncle Charles G.D. Roberts and her father’s cousin, Bliss Carman, never rose to the prominence of the men in her family, but wrote a body of work that has been described as luminous; built on a technical mastery of prosody, syntax and image; and “generally overlooked except for rare but generous reviews.” A woman whose work did not fit neatly into the feminist-political poetics that grew to dominate mid- to late-twentieth century poetry by Canadian women (such as that by the widely celebrated Dorothy Livesay, Roberts’ contemporary), Roberts’ long-neglected poetry is rich, robust, unflinching, and deserving of notice as much now as it ever was, as this essay in Arc Poetry Magazine reveals.
Anita Lahey is editor of Arc Poetry Magazine and co-editor of the Forgotten and Neglected issue. Her first collection of poetry, Out to Dry in Cape Breton (Véhicule Press, 2006), is currently shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Anita has published her poems widely in Canada and won numerous awards for her work, including the Fiddlehead‘s Ralph Gustafson Prize and the Antigonish Review‘s Great Blue Heron Poetry Prize. Her journalism has appeared in Canadian Geographic, Maisonneuve, Ottawa Magazine, Cottage Life, Quill & Quire, Saturday Night, and many other publications. She lives in Ottawa.