Stag's leap

Sharon Olds

Book - 2012

In this wise and intimate telling--which carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending--Sharon Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love's sight; the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband's smile to the set of his hip. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman. -- Cover, p. [4]

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2012.
Main Author
Sharon Olds (-)
1st ed
Item Description
Physical Description
x, 89 p. ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Olds, a poet of indomitable candor, has followed the arc of her life in her searing poetry collections (The Father, 1992; One Secret Thing, 2008). She has explored childhood traumas, sexual awakening, the blaze of love, and the bliss of marriage and motherhood in poems of shocking intimacy and stardust universality. In her tenth volume, she stoically chronicles the sudden end of her 30-year marriage. As always for Olds, the body is a living book on which passions and anguish are etched, and she translates the music of skin and the silence of bone into meticulously patterned, watertight poems. But she also looks beyond the human radius to chart the molecular webs that attach us to the sustaining elements of air, earth, water, and fire and to the solar system and cosmos beyond. Olds evokes haunted interiors, brooding seascapes, and an oddly emblematic label on a bottle of wine and raids science's linguistic storehouses. The more exacting and surprising her language and imagery, the more audaciously she parses her feelings, which swing from carefully reasoned empathy for her ex-husband to seething shame. These are threshed, rinsed, and polished poems of suffering and dignity, recognition and resignation, and freedom. And it this artistic victory over pain that makes Olds' work so potent.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Known for her unadorned, emotionally direct, sometimes sexually explicit free verse, Olds has amassed a large and loyal following over 30-odd years and 10 books. In her new collection every poem speaks to the collapse of a 30-year marriage, precipitated by the ex-husband's affair. Hence the memorable title: "The drawing on the label of our favorite red wine/ looks like my husband, casting himself off a/ cliff in his fervor to get free of me." Olds begins as the marriage is ending: "I want to ask my/ almost-no-longer husband what it's like to not/ love, but he doesn't not want to talk about it." Years later, he is a memory: Olds can "watch my idea of him pull away/ and stay, and pull away," like a kite. In between there are violently mixed feelings, erotic memories, loneliness, anger, and resolve in a book that takes its arc from the divorce, but its organization from the seasons, moving from winter to spring to "years later," and frequently looking back: "Maybe I'm half over who he/ was, but not who I thought he was, and not/ over the wound, sudden deathblow/ as if out of nowhere." (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

No contemporary poet writes better about love and passion than Olds. In her 12th collection (following One Secret Thing), she documents the unraveling of her marriage, offering poems that are careful dissections without being maudlin. Here, for instance, is how she defines love after divorce: "when I thought/ we were joined not for breath's time,/ but for the long continuance,/ the hard sweets of femur and stone." Whether she's talking about the last time she and her husband slept together, finding a photo of her husband's lover in the dryer, or how she took up newspaper reading in his honor, these poems are intense, mourning as much as recording the break. Occasionally, Olds drops a clunky line or, as in the poem "The Red Sea," incorporates a double list of vocabulary words. But on the whole the collection is stunning and reads almost like a poetic novel until you reach the poem where Old announces, "my old/ love for him, like a songbird's rib cage picked clean." VERDICT Beautiful, well-crafted poems that map the end of a marriage; the poet's talent and wisdom are on display in poems that arrow to the heart over a route that is word- and image-rich.-Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The Last Hour Suddenly, the last hour before he took me to the airport, he stood up, bumping the table, and took a step toward me, and like a figure in an early science fiction movie he leaned forward and down, and opened an arm, knocking my breast, and he tried to take some hold of me, I stood and we stumbled, and then we stood, around our core, his hoarse cry of awe, at the center, at the end, of our life. Quickly, then, the worst was over, I could comfort him, holding his heart in place from the back and smoothing it from the front, his own life continuing, and what had bound him, around his heart--and bound him to me--now lying on and around us, sea-water, rust, light, shards, the little eternal curls of eros beaten out straight. Stag's Leap Then the drawing on the label of our favorite red wine looks like my husband, casting himself off a cliff in his fervor to get free of me. His fur is rough and cozy, his face placid, tranced, ruminant, the bough of each furculum reaches back to his haunches, each tine of it grows straight up and branches, like a model of his brain, archaic, unwieldy. He bears its bony tray level as he soars from the precipice edge, dreamy. When anyone escapes, my heart leaps up. Even when it's I who am escaped from, I am half on the side of the leaver. It's so quiet, and empty, when he's left. I feel like a landscape, a ground without a figure. Sauve qui peut --let those who can save themselves save themselves. Once I saw a drypoint of someone tiny being crucified on a fallow deer's antlers. I feel like his victim, and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he throws himself off. Oh my mate. I was vain of his faithfulness, as if it was a compliment, rather than a state of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he feel he had to walk around carrying my books on his head like a stack of posture volumes, or the rack of horns hung where a hunter washes the venison down with the sauvignon? Oh leap, leap! Careful of the rocks! Does the old vow have to wish him happiness in his new life, even sexual joy? I fear so, at first, when I still can't tell us apart. Below his shaggy belly, in the distance, lie the even dots of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans. My Son's Father's Smile In my sleep, our son, as a child, said, of his father, he smiled me --as if into existence, into the family built around the young lives which had come from the charged bouquets, the dense oasis. That smile, those years, well what can a body say, I have been in the absolute present of a fragrant ignorance. And to live in those rooms, where one of his smiles might emerge, like something almost from another place, another time, another set of creatures, was to feel blessed, and to be held in mysteriousness, and a little in mourning. The thinness of his lips gave it a simplicity, like a child's drawing of a smile--a footbridge, turned over on its back, or seen under itself, in water--and the archer's bow gave it a curved unerring symmetry, a shot to the heart. I look back on that un- clouded face yet built of cloud, and that waning crescent moon, that look of deep, almost sad, contentment, and know myself lucky, that I had out the whole night of a half-life in that archaic hammock, in a sky whose darkness is fading, that first dream, from which I am now waking. Excerpted from Stag's Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.