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Sharon Olds
02-22-07

Poems - Bio 

 

I Go Back to 1937


I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges, 
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the 
red tiles glinting like bent 
plates of blood behind his head, I 
see my mother with a few light books at her hip 
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the 
wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its 
sword-tips black in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married, 
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop, 
don't do it--she's the wrong woman, 
he's the wrong man, you are going to do things 
you cannot imagine you would ever do, 
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of, 
you are going to want to die. I want to go 
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body, 
his arrogant handsome blind face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don't do it. I want to live. I 
take them up like the male and female 
paper dolls and bang them together 
at the hips like chips of flint as if to 
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

 

-from The Gold Cell 

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Poems - Bio

Born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942, Sharon Olds studied at Stanford University and Columbia University University.

Her first collection of poems, Satan Says (1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Olds's following collection, The Dead & the Living (1983), received the Lamont Poetry Selection in 1983 and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Her other collections include Strike Sparks: Selected Poems (2004, Knopf), The Unswept Room (2002), Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), The Gold Cell (1997), The Wellspring (1995), and The Father (1992), which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

About Olds's poetry, one reviewer for the New York Times said, "Her work has a robust sensuality, a delight in the physical that is almost Whitmanesque. She has made the minutiae of a woman's everyday life as valid a subject for poetry as the grand abstract themes that have preoccupied other poets."

Olds's numerous honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares, and has been anthologized in more than a hundred collections.

Olds held the position of New York State Poet from 1998 to 2000. She currently teaches poetry workshops at New York University University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program as well as a workshop at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York. She was elected an Academy Chancellor in 2006. She lives in New York City.
 



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Sharon Olds