Mini-interview: Leslie Roach

Leslie Roach was born and raised in Montreal. She is a lawyer who worked for the United Nations for 10 years. She is currently based in Ottawa, where she works for the Supreme Court of Canada.

What drew me to the writer: An Ottawa writer on a compelling topic led me to insta-buy. I found it outstanding, an alert, honest response to deep consideration.

Finish This Sentence by Leslie Roach (Mawenzi, 2021)

About the book: Finish this Sentence is her first book of poetry and was nominated for the Lampman Award. It is about a personal experience in dealing with racism and healing from its effects. As this book weaves through the anger and anxiety provoked by racism, it points to the ultimate realization: one is neither the conditioning nor the incessant chatter that racism can provoke. Rather, one is powerful and able to arrest those harmful thoughts. Awakening to these truths have helped Leslie to heal. She hopes that her work will be beneficial to others as well. Pssst stephanie roberts(!!) gave it a 5 star on GoodReads.



Thank you for
me so

I got so
fed up
that I

Leslie Roach, Finish this Sentence, p. 64


PP: Understandably, poignant and powerful keep coming up with regards to your book.

A lot of lines struck me with impact as well, such as in ‘The Poor Majority’, p. 35, “We are a minority./ No we are a majority. Collectively.” Understandably, poignant and powerful keep coming up with regards to your book.

On p. 55, ‘Manifest’ you write, “see/feel what your body is tell you. Stay there. Feel that opening”. And in p. 55, ‘Manifest’, “see/feel what your body is telling you. Stay there. Feel that opening”. Do you find that meditation gives mental space to write the eurekas that come?

LR: I consider the poem ‘Manifest’ to be the crux of Finish this Sentence. It speaks of healing from the racist experiences I had growing up. My healing has been through the written word, and in 2018, I discovered mindfulness, which propelled me forward.

Mindfulness (practicing presence) helped me to gain separation. It helped me to call things out very explicitly and to know that racism has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the lost souls who are racist, and that harm belongs to them, not me. With my writing, which is therapeutic, I bear witness to the trauma and rise above.

I am now acutely attuned to how I feel in each and every moment. This allows me to respond to situations from a place of power. Indeed, practicing mindfulness helped me to know and honour my worth. And I’ve seen the magic that comes from following one’s intuition and bliss. I aim to write about all of that and the things in between.

PP: With Covid have you had a chance to perform any of the book live?

LR: My book came out during the pandemic, and I’ve only had the opportunity to perform it virtually. Those virtual experiences have been rewarding. The highlight was talking to groups of high school art students via Zoom. Those students created art to represent various poems in “Finish this Sentence”. The message of claiming one’s right to be happy and not letting anyone define you resonated with them.  

Performing my work live in front of an actual audience will be a totally new experience. I look forward to it! 

PP: Has Covid made your writing stall or be spurred?

LR: The pandemic has helped me to uncover the different parts of me and to appreciate how my artistic journey has unfolded. It afforded me distance and space to get a better sense of who I am. With the launch of the book, I suddenly had people echoing back to me, which has been tremendously beneficial to my self-discovery and artistic journey.

The pandemic has been kind to my writing. As a solitary and pensive person, I appreciated the long periods of time at home, which allowed me to reflect and process my feelings. The pandemic gave me a better understanding of where I would like to go with my writing and where I need to focus my energy. My writing has been prolific during this period. I am now in the process of doing a massive triage of the work I have produced. 

PP: That’s fabulous, so there new work underway we can look forward to? About what?

LR: There is definitely new work to look forward to! I am in the process of editing my next collection.

The central theme of my writing is making sense of one’s place in this world and living in presence and with purpose. I wish to pay homage to the people and circumstances which led me to claim my human right to be happy. 

My poetry has covered so many topics during the pandemic. For example, I have written poems about being a spiritual being and navigating the world as such. I’ve also written about: the world of work; working from home; parenting; relationships; solitude; community; and following one’s bliss. I have also written poetry about poetry itself and journaling, and about the spiritual/artistic path. So, all that work needs to be released!