Fortune’s Favor: Scott in the Antarctic

First Edition, Published in 2015 by Poetry Mutual

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A connected series of blank verse sonnets written in the voice of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who led the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913.  Based on Scott’s actual journals, this book recreates the Heroic Era of polar exploration, before the advent of modern transportation, communications or mechanical technologies.

Advance Praise

“Fortune’s Favor, the ironic title of Kim Roberts’s fine recreation of Scott’s second expedition to Antarctica, is perfect for the book’s combination of high courage and terrible luck. Though we may know the story, its retelling in disciplined, beautifully descriptive verse brings it to startling life.”
—Linda Pastan

“’The sea stood up and soon we found/ourselves in steady plunge.’ Thus speaks Robert Falcon Scott, Antarctic explorer in ‘Stormy Seas,’ which opens Kim Roberts’s arresting sequence of poems—compressed epic that chronicles an expedition to the South Pole. And ‘plunge’ is apt—immediately I found myself immersed in the macro (‘Thoughout the winter, ice sheets move and twist,/they tear apart and press up into ridges’) and the micro (‘He couldn’t walk, a wild look in his eyes.’) elements of this renowned story, both ill-fated and moving, in which five men, tight-knit (‘It’s quite impossible to speak too well/of my companions’), push forward on a journey that tests the limits of human endeavor.”
—Francisco Aragón

“Kim Roberts has uncovered the poetic beauty of the ‘stiff upper lip’ resolve found in the journals of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott. The story of his tragic second expedition to the South Pole has seldom been told with such formal control, flashes of color, and suspense. In Fortune’s Favor, Roberts has created sonnets as ‘unrivaled and sublime’ as Antarctica’s Mt. Erebus itself—Brava!”

—Reginald Harris


In Polar Research, Dr. Kevin McGrath calls the book “a small and succinct triumph in delineating the tragic course of Scott’s team” that is “highly distinct and authentic.” He continues: “Science is inferential and rational, poetry is inspired and metaphorical: Roberts merges these two intellectual forms by deriving her own experience—what in fact becomes the book—from the written logbook of the explorer, as she re-enacts his voice and thought; there is thus a double textuality at work here…The work is a slight but wonderful tribute to humanity’s endeavour towards the acquisition of empirical knowledge in the face of terrific natural duress.”

In Prick of the Spindle, C.L. Bledsoe writes: “Roberts’ presentation of the journey juxtaposes the bravery of the men with their sacrifices and eventual deaths…They attempted something audacious, and in a sense, they succeeded by capturing the imaginations of a country and people all over the world.”

In The Washington Independent Review of Books, Grace Cavalieri praises the book’s “20 perfect sonnets” as “a groundbreaking piece of history of science in verse.” She continues, “The words that come to mind while reading this are ‘humility’ and ‘honesty.’ Never does Roberts stretch a glide to sensationalize an already dramatic circumstance. She shows the surface of events and lets the facts reveal the depth of what’s at stake. No showboating. No making matters better or worse. Just finding the right emotional vocabulary to tell the story cleanly and imagistically. The end result is that we experience rather than watch. Detailed and inventive, these are highly charged well made verses that not only reveal what happened on our geographic globe, but extend poetry’s globalization as well.”