STEPHEN SMITH: Sherbondy's Poetry Should be Appreciated at Leisure
It's gotten so I can't sit through a poetry reading.
For years I was in constant attendance while poets of various ilk, myself included, offered their oral interpretations of their various verses. But these days it seems I've heard it all. I'd rather just read the stuff and let it go at that.
Maureen A. Sherbondy's first book, "After the Fairy Tale" (Main Street Rag, PO Box 690100, Charlotte, NC 28277-7001, 34 pages, $7), is a good example of poetry that is, I suspect, best appreciated at one's ease.
Sherbondy is a newcomer to the lively North Carolina poetry scene. She grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Raleigh with her husband and three sons. Her poems have made the rounds of little magazines such as Calyx, Feminist Studies, 13th Moon, Crucible, The Roanoke Review, etc., and two of her poems were chosen as finalists in the 2006 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.
Her verse has an obvious agenda, but the poems are never so stilted as to come across as obnoxiously emphatic -- and her metaphors and images are concise and, quite frankly, endearing.
Her use of popular culture allusions and sanitized mass-market folklore focuses the reader's attention gently on a thematic intent that might otherwise overwhelm.
"While Sleeping Beauty Slept" is a good example of Sherbondy's craft.
When Rosamond pricked her finger
sending her body into the cocoon of slumber
she was shifting inside. She lifted
in flight across night sky, swimming through
the golden sea of stars. The spot where needle
opened flesh, now bled stardust and light;
entire planets emerged from the finger aperture
and flew out of her. New galaxies formed
in her world of darkness.
When Prince Evan pressed his waking lips
against her resting lips, she fell back from the
universe, back to the village, back to the castle,
landing inside royal marriage and family.
A scar on one finger, her daily reminder
of what once surfaced inside her.
I much admire Sherbondy's use of speech patterns to lend authenticity and ironic validity to her poems. However, poems such as "Dorothy Discovers 'Sex and the City'" and "Suburban Fairy Tale" work well only in the moment. I can't help but wonder if these poems will be lost on audiences five years from now, buried by the future-shock culture in which we live.
After the tornado she thought
life would be dull and grey as Kansas,
but on the new color screen
she watches Samantha bedding
a plethora of men. She relates
to Carrie, lately Dorothy's been daydreaming
about a career in journalism,
she writes columns in her head
about storm preparation, the meaning
of dreams, archetypal figures, red shoes.
She's contemplating a change of hair
style, maybe like Charlotte's -- men
don't seem to be drawn to ponytails
anymore. Aunt Em passed years before,
but Dorothy is certain she wouldn't have
approved of the show. She turns to
the Weather Channel and monitors storms,
the forecaster's smooth voice soothing
away her twister anxieties
even as she dreams of Oz.
There's much in "After the Fairy Tale" to admire -- energy, humor, irony, craft. And I'm certain we'll be hearing more from Sherbondy. On second thought, maybe I'd attend one of her readings.
Stephen Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
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