Calendars of Fire is an extended elegy whose grief is political as well as personal. Across barriers of tribe, history, and mortaliity, these poems carry us home with their music to a dwelling place in our own resonant bodies.
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 reminiscent of Lorca's Deep Song,
Darwish's celebratory lyrics of life, and narratives all her own. When
you are done reading 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 the first time, you will want to go right back to the
beginning and start reading it again, and again, and each time it will
renew itself in its own flames, in its feel for the tormented and terrorized,
the imprisoned and interrogated, the violated and voiceless. You will
return to it also for the crystal through which Lee Sharkey views not
only the harm and violence we do to one another, but also the inexplicable
human tenderness that sometimes survives. And 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.