As the Poetry Foundation states: Sharon Olds is one of contemporary poetry’s leading voices. Winner of several prestigious awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, Olds is known for writing intensely personal, emotionally scathing poetry which graphically depicts family life as well as global political events. “Sharon Olds is enormously self-aware,” wrote David Leavitt in the Voice Literary Supplement. “Her poetry is remarkable for its candor, its eroticism, and its power to move.” Olds’s candor has led to both high praise and condemnation. Her work is often built out of intimate details concerning her children, her fraught relationship with her parents and, most controversially, her sex life. Critic Helen Vendler publically disparaged Olds’s work as self-indulgent, sensationalist and even pornographic. However, Olds has just as many supporters [Kevin’s note: me among them] who praise her poetry for its sensitive portrayal of emotional states, as well as its bold depiction of “unpoetic” life events. Discussing Olds in Poetry, Lisel Mueller noted: “By far the greater number of her poems are believable and touching, and their intensity does not interfere with craftsmanship. Listening to Olds, we hear a proud, urgent, human voice.” And the poet Billy Collins has called her “a poet of sex and the psyche,” adding that “Sharon Olds is infamous for her subject matter alone…but her closer readers know her as a poet of constant linguistic surprise.”
Sharon has been a teacher of mine for many years at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. With her, all four of the ‘regulars’ at SVCW (Bob Hass, Sharon, Brenda Hillman, and Galway Kinnell) have read at the Poetry Center. But her selection wasn’t mine; she was chosen after a survey of PCSJ members’ favorite poets.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose, East Palo Alto Police Activities League (EPA PAL), Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Yale Writing Conference, Gold Rush Writers