Born in Berkeley, California, Roo Borson moved to Canada to attend the University of British Columbia in the 1970s. She is the author of fifteen books of poetry and an essay collection, and she is one-third of the collaborative poetry group Pain Not Bread, along with Kim Maltman and Andy Patton. With Kim Maltman, she has published translations and a book of prose poems under the collaborative pen name Baziju. Borson’s poetry has won the Governor General’s Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and the Griffin Poetry Prize. Early inspirations include listening to short poems by Shakespeare and Wordsworth recited by heart by her father. She continues to be inspired by whatever shows the world to be larger than it seemed the moment before: travel, daily life, and reading books from around the world.
I did read poetry in high school, not so much for classes, but outside of classes. I liked some of the poems of e.e. cummings then, especially one called “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” I never memorized it, but still recall something of its rhymes and rhythms, and the way it moved. Nine stanzas of four lines each, with a refrain on the names of the seasons as well as on the line “sun moon stars rain.” A very pretty poem to read aloud.
I started writing poetry as a child. Just a few lines at first (with some funny rhymes, or at least I thought they were funny back then). I never really stopped for very long, but kept writing as a teenager, and on into what people think of as the adult years. I’m now old! and still writing. In my twenties the question of when one could call oneself a poet seemed important, and kind of anxiety-producing. But later I realized that the point is that anyone who is writing poetry is, by definition, a poet. If you keep writing, you get better at it.
I think of poetry more as what they used to call a “vocation” rather than as a job. That is, something you really want to do, and hope to have a talent for, and time. And something you can learn a lot about from others who also write.
I think of that poem [“From Summer Grass”] as something like a piece of music. What matters in it are the images and the way it is spoken, and the way it moves. It's not so much a story, and not so much a piece of logical thinking, as it is an emotional response to walking by a river and seeing what can be seen from there, and then going home and seeing what can be seen from there too. That particular river, the River Torrens, happens to be in Australia, where I was living for a time. The city of Adelaide and some of the places near the city are invoked there, without naming them all directly. It’s a bit like a long song, and is meant to be heard aloud.
I would be torn between two poems: Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken,” and John Keats’ “Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art.” I lived for a couple of years in Vermont, and so the Robert Frost poem, besides being beautiful and deep in its thought, always takes me to those woods near the place I was living back then: I can see the yellow wood he talks about, and it feels very personal. With the Keats poem, I find the first half of it stunningly lovely in sound. Both poems are striking and memorable in their imagery, and both of them “live” in me in some way, despite the fact that, though I’ve read each of them at least a hundred times by now, I still don’t know them by heart.