‘Sharon Olds’s taut and beautiful poems in Stag’s Leap explore the civil war of love and hate in the marital heart.’
–Edna O’Brien, Guardian Books of the Year
As for it being scary: I find writing much more pleasurable than scary. And when we are trying to write truthfully, true to the poem — whether literally, or an imaginative truth — we aren’t writing to look good.
Huffington Post, on winning the T.S. Eliot Prize
“Here’s the thing – writers are not confident people,” she tells me. “We work and we hope and we doubt ourselves. And for women of my age, who grew up in very patriarchal times – even more so than it is now – I think the pleasure is in just being able to be writers as the world changes around us. You don’t wake up in the morning feeling ‘acclaimed’. We try to acclaim ourselves a little bit every day, but not too much. Just some…”
One of the most surprising things about Stag’s Leap is how Olds portrays the man who left her for another woman with such kindness. Her manner in person – warm and generous, talking in sweeping circles around a theme or an idea before honing in – seems to fit the voice in the poems. Even still, it must have been an incredibly painful book to work on?
“I like writing,” she says. “I like the feeling of the ballpoint pen going over the grocery story notebook (wide-ruled, so I don’t feel clipped).”
The judges described Stag’s Leap as “a tremendous book of grace and gallantry which crowns the career of a world-class poet”.
“This out-of-the-ordinary collection, about the end of a marriage, goes beyond the confessional. Sharon Olds, who has always had a gift for describing intimacy, has, in a sense, had these poems thrown at her by life and allowed them to take root: they are stunning – the best of a formidable career. Deserted after decades of marriage, she describes a love for her husband that refuses to die to order. They are the most unusual love poems: fortified by years, by sexual passion of valedictory intensity and by vows she does not, at first, know how to unmake. They can be read as an ongoing narrative – a calendar of pain.”
“It did not take the Puritan taboo to rouse my interest in the subject!” laughs Olds, when asked about the frankness on the matter of sex. “I was in tenth grade in Berkeley, California, when Allen Ginsberg wrote Howl and Other Poems. I carried it in my purse.” –Sharon Olds, in September, 2012 Issue of Vogue
“What do you do when, after 30 years, your husband tells you he is leaving you for someone else? If you’re poet Sharon Olds, you grab your spiral-bound notebook and write about it.”
Tony Hoagland asks: “What do you get as a reward for being a poet like Sharon Olds?”
One Secret Thing:
“As she writes in the title poem, describing the anointing with Vaseline of her mother’s mouth: “The secret was/ how deeply I did not want to touch/ inside her, and how much the act/ was an act of escape, my last chance/ to free myself.” By laying hands, however unwillingly, upon the imperfect body, she has reached at last humanity’s common ground.”
“Sharon Olds’s poems are pure fire in the hands,” said Michael Ondaatje on the publication of her first Selected Poems, The Sign of Saturn. The British poet, Peter Redgrove, agreed. “Every poem,” he said, “is a wonder – strong, actual, unsentimental and without bullshit – in a world glowing with solid reality.” “This,” said the poet and playwright Glyn Maxwell, “is the sound the confessional hordes have been trying to utter since Lowell.”