Many unusual events took place in 2020, and as people around the world adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, some found solace in creative pursuits. This was the case for George Roberts, a Saanich resident in his mid-90s who published two books of poetry this past year.
Roberts, who marked his 95th birthday on Dec. 31, 2020, published his first book of 175 limericks, For Better or Verse, in 2017. He opened the book by explaining that limericks are humorous, five-line poems named for the town in Ireland where they’re said to have originated.
In 2020, Roberts released For Better or Verse Book 2 and Book 3. He currently lives at the Abbeyfield House St. Peters seniors’ home on Reynolds Road and typed both new books himself on the computer that’s available to residents.
Roberts, who grew up in Ontario and had a career as an accountant, has always loved music. After the Second World War, he moved to Saanich in the ’50s and led choirs in local churches for 40 years. The 95-year-old still plays the piano and the trumpet regularly.
“Music is my life,” and accounting just “put food on the table,” he explained.
During a choir practice in 1997, Roberts and the other singers spent half an hour showing off their limerick skills and he realized that poetry and music went hand in hand. He kept the limericks he’d made up during that practice and eventually used them in his first book.
Roberts hadn’t planned to publish his poems, but in 2017, his “adopted wife,” Anne Jarvis, encouraged him to seek a publisher. He and his first wife lived near Prospect Lake for 44 years before her passing in 1998. He later met Jarvis who, after nearly a decade together, has become his biggest supporter.
After publishing his poetry for the third time, Roberts isn’t sure what he wants to do next.
“I think I’ve had enough of limericks, but I’m raring to go,” he joked.
His third book included some other forms of poetry and prose, so perhaps he’ll pursue those styles for his fourth book – which his publisher, Island Blue Print, and new agent are already inquiring about.
For now, Roberts plans to continue with his creative pursuits in 2021 by playing his favourite instruments, singing and writing. For Better or Verse Book 1 is available on Amazon – though he sold it himself by mail when it was first published – and his subsequent books will be available online soon.