STEPHEN SMITH: Poetry Looks at Southern Jewish Life
It's not often that the Jewish identity in the South is explored via poetry, but Raleigh writer Maureen A.
Sherbondy -- she's a Metuchen, N.J., transplant -- has employed verse to do just that in "Praying at Coffee
Shops" (Main Street Rag, PO Box 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227, 38 pages, $10).
Her poems are a touch metaphysical, a trifle traditional (there are vestiges of form poems here), and a whole
lot grounded in her faith.
She offers the reader -- the Southern reader in particular -- a fresh vision of life in the context of a world
that's being transformed with dismaying rapidity.
The use of religion to explicate one's identity is hardly new; in fact, it was overused to the point of cliché
during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And in the last 20 years Chuck Sullivan of Charlotte -- a New
Yorker by birth -- has explored the Catholic experience in "Longing for the Harmonies," "A Catechism of
Hearts," and "The Juggler on the Radio."
But no Jewish
poet has focused on the Southern Jewish psyche with Sherbondy's outraged clarity. Take these excerpted
stanzas from "A Jew Contemplates Christmas in the South":
They would tinsel the stars if they could
instead, every Mrs. Is dressed in her glitzy
decorative sweater, sequined in reds and greens
purchased last year at the after-Christmas sale.
Causes Maureen Sherbondy Supports
North Carolina Writers' Network, Temple Beth Or, North Carolina Poetry Society