Sunday, April 6, 2008

National Poetry Month - Sharon Olds

For my National Poetry Month posts, I've decided that I want to focus on the work of women poets. Those who were and are considred "half cracked" are particular favorites. Half-cracked women poets are witches, bitches, feminists and madwomen. I say, thank god for us who partake of their intimacy, madness and sorcery.

Others, like Sharon Olds, tell their own truths about the body, sex, violence, death and family in stark language that is feared and criticized, I believe, because of their gender.

Here is Sharon Olds from her collection The Dead And The Living. Some critics of Olds have referred to her work as "pornographic", so be warned.

The Issues
(Rhodesia 1978)

Just don't tell me about the issues.
I can see the pale spider-belly head of the
newborn who lies on the lawn, the web of
veins at the surface of her scalp, her skin
grey and gleaming, the clean line of the
bayonet down the center of her chest.
I see her mother's face, beaten and
beaten into the shape of a plant,
a cactus with grey spines and broad
dark maroon blooms.
I see her arm stretched out across her baby,
wrist resting, heavily, still, across the
tiny ribs.
Don't speak to me about
politics. I've got eyes, man.

Also from The Gold Cell

Still Life

I lie on my back after making love,
breasts white in shallow curves like the lids of soup dishes,
nipples shiny as berries, speckled and immutable.
My legs lie down there somewhere in the bed like those
great silver fish drooping over the edge of the table
Scene of destruction, scene of perfect peace,
sex bright and calm and luminous as the
scarlet and blue dead pheasant all
maroon neck feathers, and deep body wounds,
and on the center of my forehead a drop of water
round and opalescent, and in it
the self-portrait of the artist, upside down,
naked, holding your brushes dripping like torches with light.

Open Letter To Laura Bush

Salon interview with Sharon Olds


  1. A true poet. Powerful stuff and I'd not heard of her before (blush).

    Thanks for allowing me to discover her.


  2. Pornographic? What a remarkably silly thing to say.

    I'd heard of her, but not read her work; these are good.

  3. johnieb: the poems I posted are not the ones considered pornographic. One of her most controversial poems is called The Pope's Penis, which even I had trouble with, but certainly for different reasons than Catholics.


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