The Disappearing Trick

By Clark, George | The Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

The Disappearing Trick


Clark, George, The Virginia Quarterly Review


The Disappearing Trick, by Len Roberts. Illinois, July 2007. $19.95 paper

When Len Roberts passed away this spring, we lost one of our best narrative poets at the height of his powers. In the mid-seventies, Roberts began writing poems as a way of coming to terms with the death of an abusive and alcoholic father, eventually creating a series of elegies complicated by resentment, sympathy, and tenderness in equal measure. The Disappearing Trick, Roberts' tenth full-length collection and the last to be compiled before his death, negotiates the same terrain of strained relationships and domestic dysfunction. Here, memories of a drunken father and self-involved mother continue to be explored alongside seemingly endemic illness and loss in his own generation as well as the depression and emotional detachment of his children. The narratives represented are punctuated by a sense of personal and spiritual guilt that has been ingrained in Roberts since Catholic grade school. To some extent, it is this guilt the book struggles against. …

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