SHARON OLDS was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford and Columbia universities. Her first book, Satan Says (1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Her second, The Dead and the Living, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Father was short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize in England, and The Unswept Room was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and is one of the founders of NYU's writing workshops for residents of Goldwater Hospital, and for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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.