For several decades, I have been writing primarily about family and community, seeking moments of holiness and connection. I began by writing poems that focused on several generations of my family, from immigrant grandparents to my own children. More recently, I have been drawn to exploring particular traditions and rituals, to writing about those values that form the core of my private, as well as public, life.
It’s no coincidence that, as I have deepened my religious observance over the years, so has my poetry become more interwoven with this lifestyle, more responsive to its pulse. Part of my poetic task, as I see it, has been to reconcile Jewish life in places as different as Oregon and New York City, honoring tradition yet open to change, building bridges between them. Another part of my task: to know that sense of wonder in everyday actions/interactions and objects, to find awe in the commonplace. Taken together, these have led me on a deeply felt spiritual exploration: often immersed in loss as well as healing, grief as well as belief, memories of comfort as well as love.
Ultimately, I worry about the vision we pass along to our children, what durable values connect us to our past and to each other, what moral guidelines we put into daily practice. The moral and ethical concerns that we own, our spiritual compass, the traditions and rituals we observe, the family and communal values we have absorbed, the culture we strive to define and preserve, the sense of justice and responsible action we value, the environment we create in which to work and live—these issues are at the heart of poetry. If we are loyal to these, then our poetry will speak to larger human concerns, universal truths, become as deep as the creative source from which they draw. We then will have become better equipped to “see” the world through poetry, discovering real connection and even holiness in the mundane.
"(Steven Sher manages) to transform the anomalies of daily living into something as rich and dense as a tapestry."
"(There are) tremors of realization...a strong feeling of location...a gust of feeling as I read."
“Unabashedly emotional, this is poetry of the deepest sentiment, as full of moving truths as it is full of invention…illumined by the transformative power of the poet’s language.”
“Steven Sher is our guide to love and affection in this fallen world…In this age of hustle and hype, his soft-pitched and steady voice is just what we need.”
“Throughout these quiet, loving and humorous poems about a father, the reader comes to know why such a person ensures the survival of the generation…a deeply felt spiritual exploration.”
"...a remarkable achievement in both poetry and as a chronicle of life...with all its challenges to surviving. Sher’s voice remains powerful, clear and moving, his tone unflinching. He is perhaps the sincerest and most authentic poet I’ve heard in a long time."
Sher's "...mosaic of word truth..." is "...a profound, strong dose of the reality of living in Israel."
Stanley H. Barkan
“In our time I can think of no more sustained and rending justice done to death of a loved friend… At (Sher’s) finest it is as fine as the ‘Absalom/Absalom.’”
“Sher is a poet of exceptional verbal gifts and unique sensibility who never forgets that ‘the human spirit will survive.’”
Sher's "...vibrant portraits of Israel and Jewish life... speak a truth that is often beautiful and sometimes terrible to process, but always essential to know."
“(Sher’s poems) are driven by a considerable spiritual depth…(and are) of that tradition in English poetry reaching from Donne to Hopkins to Vassar Miller.”
"I was moved by the accumulating weight of a world—a world densely populated, keenly observed... the street-life of Brooklyn of the '40s and '50s, the culture of East European Jews...."
"...Steven Sher’s astonishing new collection of poems...deftly captures the subtle shades and nuances of daily life... in the land of our ancestors."
“Take a pinch of Chelm, a dab of midrash, hearty sprinklings of Kafka and I. B. Singer, a touch of Rabbi Nachman and you'll have a taste of Steve Sher's stories from Slawotich, a town where magic is as common as black bread.”
”(Sher’s work) feels very much like something Woody Allen or Mel Brooks might write. Great fun.”
“Wise without being bitter, simple without being naïve—these are tales you’ll read to your children with a little shiver, the way the great family stories are read.”