North Carolina writer Maureen Sherbondy understands that saccharine fairytale endings are a big fat lie. Her own work never pulls a punch, and she’ll share it with the adventurous listeners who attend her reading this Thursday evening at the Lazy Lion Bookstore.
Her devoted readers know Sherbondy has a wicked sense of humor, as in this excerpt from “The Good Witch Throws in Her Wand.”
“In her fifties Glenda grows tired/ of being good, doing the right thing,/ weaving that magic wand/ to fix and reverse destruction and doom./ She travels through Florida on a Harley,/ bar-hopping, dancing through popular/ clubs, slurping Jell-o shots off tan, flat stomachs/ of college boys.
Whether it’s Cupid retrieving his arrow from a broken marriage or a giant trampling a garden, Sherbondy weaves her twisted magic with the stark needle of reality.
“Maureen has a series of poems featuring fairy tale characters in retirement, rehab, or therapy,” says fellow poet Glenn Cassidy. “She also uses fantasy in short stories that engage magical realism. The fantastic is never present as simply a wow factor; it’s used to make a point.”
Sherbondy’s poetry has been published in over one hundred literary journals, and her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has garnered more than a few literary awards, including the Robert Watson Poetry Award for The Year of Dead Fathers, due this fall.
This haunting and therapeutic collection reflects her own loss and grief, like a futile attempt to reverse time by walking backwards. But the works aren’t without some lighter moments.
“Many of the fairy tale poems are very funny, often with biting satire,” Cassidy notes. “I also especially like the short story in which a woman coughs up a hairball that becomes the ghost of her dead father, offering an opportunity to address unresolved issues between the living and the dead.”
Writing, to Sherbondy, is a balm and an outlet. “If I don’t write for a few days, I feel kind of anxious … kind of empty,” she says.
Her need to write must be balanced with the care of three sons and the demands of teaching, but she pushes forward, explaining, “You can’t rest on what you did yesterday.”
Being a poet has its drawbacks. “We’re seen as sort of mysterious,” she says. “We’re like the distant, twice-removed cousin that nobody wants to talk to.”
Poetry, too, can be off-putting. “There’s the notion it’s not accessible,” Sherbondy laments. “People are afraid of poetry.” That makes the self-promotion of her work doubly difficult.
Sherbondy explores what she calls the “journey” of her poetry, following it line by line wherever it leads her, whether to buried treasure or to a grave. For her, it’s a kind of journey to enlightenment.
Since writing is largely a solitary activity, Sherbondy believes being part of a community of writers is vital. North Carolina, she acknowledges, is a good state in which to write.
“There are great storytellers here,” she admits, adding that often stories are a legacy passed from generation to generation. The sheer number of local writers impresses her: “They’re in coffee shops and bookstores and locker rooms.”
By hosting a monthly poetry reading in Raleigh, Sherbondy has connected with area writers, many of whom also frequent the Third Thursday event. “It’s a very supportive writing community,” she says.
“Maureen is fun, bottom line, and I’m so looking forward to her being with us once again,” says Laura Towne, co-host of the event. “Her poetry is insightful and smart, and I really admire her dedication to not only this writing community but writers everywhere.”
Sherbondy’s other titles include After the Fairy Tale, Praying at Coffee Shops, Scar Girl, Weary Blues and Eulogy for an Imperfect Man, which is coming out this fall, and a short story collection, The Slow Vanishing.
She’ll cast her spell Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Lazy Lion on 601 Broad Street in Fuquay-Varina. An open mic will follow the reading.