In Memoriam: Sharon Leiter


Sharon Leiter

August 12, 1942—January 15, 2016

Sharon Leiter

“The poet lights the light and fades away. But the light goes on and on.”

― Emily Dickinson

It’s with much heartache that we announce the passing of our poetry editor and dear friend, Sharon Leiter. After a two-year battle with cancer, she slipped away on Saturday, surrounded by her loved ones.

Sharon was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family of Russian-Jewish immigrants. She studied literature at Brandeis University, where she met her late husband, Darryl, an astrophysicist. Together, they raised their daughter in Virginia, where Sharon taught at the University of Virginia. Over the years, she ran marathons, published three volumes of poetry and learned to bellydance. She read avidly, traveled, and collected works of art by her friends. To her great delight, she spent many hours caring for her three grandsons, whom she loved endlessly.

Sharon’s professional career brilliantly reflects her passion for the written word. She received a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures, published scholarly works about Emily Dickinson and Anna Akhmatova, served as a government analyst in Russian affairs, and consulted for a Washington think-tank. Most recently and during her illness, Sharon taught literature and writing courses as an adjunct professor in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program at the University of Virginia.

I had the privilege of knowing Sharon not just as a co-editor but as a dear friend. Her keen poetic sense, unmistakable laugh and New York accent all immediately endeared her to me. Over the years, we’d gush and kvetch about life’s beauty and tragedy, often over coffee and Entenmann’s pastries. Sharon introduced me to Mary Karr and Stephen Dunn. She shared her wisdom, her fears and her joys with me, and I’m extremely grateful.

On my last visit with Sharon, she asked me to read to her from the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska’s most recent collection, Map. I thumbed through the book, choosing short poems. She listened with eyes closed, nodding and squinting her eyes in moments of appreciation. After her passing, I spent time reading from Sharon’s 2012 book, The Night Heart Knows Every Word, hearing her voice recounting the moments of her life, her love for her family, her wonder at the world.

Streetlight is honored to publish Sharon’s poetry as a way to share her light with the world. Luckily, for us, it goes on and on.

Poetry Editor, Lisa Ryan, on behalf of the Streetlight staff


A selection of seven poems by Sharon appear in the Winter 2016 issue of Streetlight.
Please click here to read more of Sharon’s work.




singed scraps of awareness
sift through a smoky sky

when the pain lets go
you struggle to rejoin yourself

you and your armchair battle
to retain your body’s shape

holding fast against
the whoosh of dissolution

and you, who’ve always stood outside,
seem to remember the moment —

before time as treachery —
before dawn as disappointment —

when the jar alive with every
firefly of goodness shattered

sending the sparks sailing for all time
through the prevailing dark

—from Sharon’s book, The Night Heart Knows Every Word 


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3 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Sharon Leiter”

  1. Sharon was also my dear friend. She was one of the first people, who I believed, who told me my poetry had merit. She was my neighbor for a time at Lake Monticello. Sharon had a great gift of making everyone feel special, especially other writers. She was humble about her own wonderful poetry. She and I both had an admiration for Emily Dickinson’s work.
    I shall miss her greatly, but I’m glad she is out of pain. Lauvonda Lynn Young

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