Sharon Olds On Poetry And Divorce

With Jane Clayson in for Tom Ashbrook.

Poems about her divorce just won Sharon Olds a Pulitzer Prize. She joins us.

Sharon Olds (Brett Hall)

Sharon Olds (Brett Hall)

We know. Divorce is no stranger in America.  A lot of marriages end that way. But, it’s different when it happens to you. When it derails your life.  It’s personal.

Just ask the Pulitzer committee. This month, they commended poet Sharon Olds for her collection “Stag’s Leap.” A book of poems that looks to answer the question, “What do you do when – 30 years in – your partner wants no more?” The committee called it “a book of unflinching poems … [on] love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge.” Wow.

This hour, On Point: love after parting. Pulitzer Prize-winner Sharon Olds.


Sharon Olds, poet and professor of English at New York University. Her most recent collection, “Stag’s Leap,” won a Pulitzer and the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Excerpt: ‘Stag’s Leap ‘by Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds Reads Her Poems:

“Stag’s Leap”

“The Healers”

The Healers

When they say, If there are any doctors aboard,
would they make themselves known, I remember when my then
husband would rise, and I would get to be
the one he rose from beside. They say now
that it does not work, unless you are equal.
And after those first thirty years,
I was not the one he wanted to rise from
or return to—not I but she who would also
rise, when such were needed. Now I see them,
lifting, side by side, on wide,
medical, wading-bird wings—like storks with the
doctor bags of like-loves-like
dangling from their beaks. Oh well. It was the way
it was, he did not feel happy when words
were called for, and I stood.
Excerpted from Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds. Copyright © 2012 by Sharon Olds. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From The Reading List

The Huffington Post: Pulitzer Prize-Winner Sharon Olds Talks Poetry, Divorce — “Considered to be one of America’s greatest living poets, Olds has spent more than 30 years writing confessional poetry about sex and love, childbirth and death. Was writing about her divorce any different — more painful, perhaps — than her prior works?”

The Concord Monitor: My Turn: Sharon Olds writes poems of the heart’s knowledge — “So this book does not simply present the heartbreak of a failed marriage. It shows how over time Olds comes ‘to look at love in a new way,’ moving beyond her initial hurt to a larger vision of forgiveness and even gratitude, and reclaiming herself as a loving spirit. Poem by poem as she makes this journey, opening her ‘strictured heart,’ she teaches us how profound and generous love’s influence can be.”

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