31 July 2008

Sharon Olds

I just wanted to share with you a link to this interview I stumbled upon with American poet Sharon Olds, which was in the Guardian. I found it really interesting, especially her humbleness – she’s one of the most well-known poets of our time (at least in the US), but she says: ‘As for feeling my work is an achievement - there are little passages, maybe 15 of them, like a line and a half each, that I really like.’

She also says:


‘I think for me the impulse to write has to do with making something, with capturing, recording, preserving, honouring, saving - or not turning away from, if it's a ghastly human thing one is driven to write about.’ And what does it offer the reader? She laughs. ‘Well . . . companionship. And pleasure: musical pleasure, in hearing it - and, to the inner ear, in reading it on the page. And recognition: “Someone else has felt what I've felt.” And surprise: “I never thought of that.” Reading poems can give us information about emotional states, or subjects, give us virtual experience which may be very different from our own. Yes! Maybe this is it! I think that the arts are for showing us ourselves -
including what's dangerous about us - holding a mirror up to nature.’
Have any of you read much of Sharon Olds’s work? I’ve read everything that is in Wellington Public Library – which isn’t much. Actually, that’s a lie, because while I started reading The Father, I couldn’t finish reading it. It just repulsed me. It’s about watching her father die of cancer. It was just too much for me.

But I really, really loved The Wellspring, and I think it’s been a really important book for me. It reads like a sort of autobiography, starting with the narrator’s parents, and then tracing through her life. I’m a bit hesitant to definitely identify the narrator with the poet, because she herself keeps a bit of distance there.

Olds is particularly known for her poetry about sex – she writes with an honesty that some people think borders on pornographic. What I have read so far has just been truthful, honest and real.

Note to self, read more of Sharon Olds’s poetry.

3 comments:

Colleen said...

Olds definitely has a realist's eye - I recently read Striking Sparks, and there were sections that were heartbreaking, horrifying, and just damned sad. She's definitely a talent.

Helen Rickerby said...

Hi Colleen, is Stricking Sparks a newish collection? I've noticed that her works often have some kind of unifying theme or narrative - does that book? What's your favourite collection of hers that you've read?

Helen said...

I think Olds is very clever and her work really resonates for me. I have the Striking Sparkes collection too. They are selected poems from 1980 to 2002, a good spread so to speak.