Roo Borson’s early poems are primarily lyrics and meditations on natural landscapes. In Landfall (1977) and In the Smoky Light of the Fields (1980), the speakers achieve illumination and epiphany through poetic concentration. The publication of A Sad Device (1981) brought her wide critical attention. This book, along with Rain (1980), marked a shift in her development in its increasing use of narrative and its interest in social relationships.
The movement continues in The Whole Night, Coming Home (1984), an autobiographical work in which the poet returns to the place of her childhood and recalls her upbringing. This book, and Intent, Or the Weight of the World (1989), feature longer poetic lines and prose forms. Night Walk (1995), a volume of selected poems, and Water Memory (1996) followed. As part of the collaborative poetry ensemble Bread not Pain, Roo Borson published “free variations” of classical Chinese poetry in Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei (2000).
Roo Borson’s tenth collection, Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida (2004), is similarly influenced by her interest in Asian poetry and nature. It won the Governor General’s Award in 2005 and the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2006.