Lee (Weiner) Sharkey

PORTLAND – Lee Sharkey (Weiner) died peacefully after a brief battle with cancer at her home in Portland on Oct. 18, 2020 at the age of 75.Lee was born in Providence, R.I. on March 5, 1945, the only child of Grace and Aaron Weiner. She graduated from Brandeis University in 1966 with a degree in comparative literature. Lee had a brief marriage to Anthony Sharkey, which produced her only child, Jesse Sharkey, in 1968.Lee moved to central Maine in 1970, where she ran a homestead, operated a small letterpress, raised her son Jesse, and worked as a visiting poet in Maine schools. She also taught English at Oak Grove Coburn High School in Vassalboro.Lee later received her MFA in writing from Warren Wilson College. She married Al Bersbach, of Vienna, Maine in 1993.Lee taught for many years at the University of Maine at Farmington, where she founded the Women’s Studies Program. She taught poetry classes and workshops for a number of venues, including the L.I.N.C Club in Augusta, a community club for psychiatrically labeled adults, and the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences. She was a co-founder and former president of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and served for 15 years as co-editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal, one of the country’s oldest and most respected literary magazines.Sharkey is the author of Walking Backwards (Tupelo, 2016), Calendars of Fire (Tupelo, 2013), and five earlier books of poems, as well as a number of chapbooks. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Consequence, FIELD, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tikkun, and has received many awards, including a Maine Arts Commission award and the prestigious 2017 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, which she won for “Letter to Al,” a poignant account of her second husband’s dementia. The poem is included in I Will Not Name It Except to Say, a collection of poems she completed in the last weeks of her life, which is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in spring 2021.Sharkey was politically active in Jewish and anti-war organizations, and for a number of years stood with the Women in Black peace vigil in Farmington and Portland. In addition to her son Jesse, Ms. Sharkey is survived by Bersbach, Patrick Liddy, Stephanie Harmon; daughter-in-law Julie Fain; and grandsons Leo and Caleb. An on-line memorial is being planned.Donations in Lee’s honor can made to Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance’s scholarship fund for Maine writers by following this link: https://www.mainewriters.org/join-support

Lee (Weiner) Sharkey

Guest Book