Title: Stag’s Leap: Poems
Author: Sharon Olds
First published September 4, 2012
112 pages, Paperback
ISBN: 9780375712258 (ISBN10: 0375712259)
Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap is a heart-wrenching collection of poems that delves into the complexities of divorce. With a writing style that is both wise and intimate, Olds takes us through the seasons of her marriage’s end, exploring themes of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom.
She is unapologetic in her vulnerability, sharing the feeling of becoming invisible in love’s sight and the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting. Olds bares it all, even showing generosity towards the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman.
Her propulsive poetic line and the magic of her imagery are as lively as ever, and there is a new range to the music – sometimes headlong, sometimes contemplative and deep. This powerful book of poetry is a testament to Olds’ unsparing approach to pain and love, making it one of her finest works yet.
About the Author
Sharon Olds was born on November 19, 1942, in San Francisco. She received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from Columbia University.
In 1980, Olds published her first collection of poems, Satan Says, which received the San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Her second collection, The Dead & the Living, was awarded the Lamont Poetry Selection in 1983 and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Olds has also published several other collections, including Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, The Unswept Room, Blood, Tin, Straw, The Gold Cell, The Wellspring, and The Father. The Father was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was shortlisted for the T.
S. Eliot Prize.
Olds’s poetry focuses on the physical and everyday experiences of women, and has been praised for its sensuality and attention to detail. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares, and has been included in over one hundred anthologies.
In addition to her writing, Olds has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She served as New York State Poet from 1998 to 2000, and currently teaches poetry workshops at New York University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program and at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island.
In 2006, she was elected an Academy Chancellor. Olds currently resides in New York City.
Sharon Olds, one of the most respected and influential poets of our time, published her eleventh poetry collection, Stag’s Leap, in 2012. This volume explores the aftermath of her divorce from her husband of over thirty years, moving through stages of grief and transformation with emotional depth and lyrical intensity.
Olds’ signature themes of culture, family, sexuality, and mortality are all present in this collection, but in a new light that shows her evolution as a writer and a human being. Stag’s Leap is a masterful blend of confessional and universal poetry, balancing personal vulnerability with universal resonance.
Olds’ language is direct and accessible, yet rich in imagery and allusions. She weaves together memories, dreams, and observations to create a mosaic of emotions that speaks to anyone who has ever experienced loss, pain, or healing.
The collection is divided into several sections, each one revealing a different aspect of the speaker’s journey, from shock and denial to anger and acceptance. One of the strengths of Stag’s Leap is its honesty and authenticity.
Olds doesn’t shy away from difficult emotions or uncomfortable truths, but she also doesn’t wallow in self-pity or bitterness. She finds beauty in the darkness, and hope in the ashes.
Her poems are full of insights and revelations that feel earned, not forced. For example, in the title poem, she compares her ex-husband to a stag who has shed its antlers and moved on, while she is still “the doe who had fed on blueberries”.
In “The Day After He Left for Santa Fe”, she describes how she feels like a ghost who has been left behind, but then sees a flock of birds that reminds her of life’s resilience and renewal. Another strength of Stag’s Leap is its musicality and rhythm.
Olds is a master of form and structure, using traditional poetic techniques such as rhyme, meter, and enjambment to enhance the meaning and impact of her words. The sound and flow of her lines are as important as their content, creating a haunting and hypnotic effect that stays with the reader long after the book is closed.
Some of the standout poems in this regard are “Ode to the Hymen”, “First Thanksgiving”, and “The Race”. However, Stag’s Leap is not without its flaws.
Some readers might find the content too personal or specific to Olds’ situation, making it less relatable or engaging. Others might find the tone too melancholic or repetitive, lacking in humor or irony.
Nonetheless, these criticisms are minor compared to the overall quality and impact of the book. In conclusion, Stag’s Leap is a poignant and powerful collection of poems that showcases Sharon Olds’ mastery of her craft and her courage as a human being.
It is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry, literature, or humanity. It is a book that reminds us of the power of art to heal and transform, and of the resilience and beauty of the human spirit.
The Washington Post gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.