Lee Sharkey is the author of six chapbooks and three previous full-length collections of poems, most recently A Darker, Sweeter String (Off the Grid Press, 2008). She was the Maine Arts Commission’s 2010 Fellow in Literary Arts and recipient of the 1997 Rainmaker Award in Poetry, chosen by Carolyn Forché. Since 2003, she has co-edited the Beloit Poetry Journal, one of the country’s oldest literary magazines. (Author photo by Al Bersbach)
Calendars of Fire is an extended elegy whose grief is political as well as personal. Across barriers of tribe, history, and mortality, these poems carry us home with their music to a dwelling place in our own resonant bodies.
“Lee Sharkey writes an exemplary poetry of conscience that exposes and refutes that ‘the warden is also the historian.’ Her ‘slit-tongued questions’ combined with her ‘throat song’ are reminiscient of Lorca's Deep Song, Darwish's celebratory lyrics of life, and narratives all her own. When you are done reading her Calendars of Fire, you will know what it means to ‘shiver from the we in tenderness.’”
“In her stunning fourth book of poems, Lee Sharkey takes on the work, simultaneously elegiac and urgent, of reading ‘what has happened back to happening.’ From line to startling line, she evokes the sufferings of persons affected by war and other oppressions, sometimes in juxtaposition to personal grief. Sources—from the Spanish Inquisition to Palestine and Sarajevo—are identified only in the notes; the poems themselves conflate without generalizing, placing us, through compelling images and breathtaking particulars, in scenes at once foreign and familiar. Profoundly disturbing but ultimately hopeful, Calendars of Fire rewards and challenges with each re-reading.”
“When you finish reading Calendars of Fire ... you will want to read the book again for the sorrow in its honed, ceremonial diction and the strength in its varied, strophic lines. ‘The whole harm entered me,’ writes the poet in the title poem, and ‘love branded my throat with tongues.’ As with the poet, so too her grateful readers.”
— Fred Marchant