Apr 16 99 by Published in: Reviews No comments yet

Len Roberts came late to poetry.

It wasn’t until 1975, when he found himself alone in an old farmhouse in Germansville after separating from his first wife, that he began what he thought were a series of cathartic letters to his family.

The letters, addressed to his hard-drinking father, to his older brother institutionalized in a veteran’s hospital, to his younger brother scarred by a childhood rape, and to his mother, whom he blamed for the family’s troubles, eventually took the shape of poems.

They were a long time coming, said Roberts, who now cherishes language after he was unable to speak as a child.

It was school – and a handful of nuns who took an interest in him – that gave him a voice.

“To find the right word, to say it, to be understood, was and still is a miracle that everyone else then seemed to take for granted,” he wrote in a 1995 autobiographical essay.

Although the dark memories of his first family populate his early work, a new life with a second wife and the birth of his son brings a lightness to his later writings.

“My poetry is always about people. I am incapable of writing a good poem about an animal or scene from nature. What propels my poetry is a concern, a connection with people,” Roberts wrote.

Roberts will read from his work Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Zimmerman Recital Hall of Lebanon Valley College’s Suzanne H. Arnold Gallery. The reading is free and open to the public.

Roberts has published nine books of poetry, including “Learning About the Heart,” winner of Silverfish Review’s 1992 annual chapbook competition, and “Black Wings,” which was selected for the 1988 National Poetry Series by Sharon Olds. His latest book is “The Trouble-Making Finch.” His poems also have appeared in several anthologies and journals.

Roberts has also translated the writing of numerous Hungarian poets, and was awarded a 1999 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to continue the translations.

A professor of English at Northampton Community College, he has won two National Endowment for the Arts writing awards for his poetry and was named a Fulbright scholar to Finland and Hungary.


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