Sharon Olds and the narrative voice

Sharon olds will read from her latest collection, One Secret Thing, tonight at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.

Here’s a quote from Olds in an interview with The Guardian by Marianne Macdonald, entitled, Old’s worlds.

“Poems like mine – I don’t call them confessional, with that tone of admitting to wrong- doing. My poems have done more accusing than admitting. I call work like mine ‘apparently personal’. Or in my case apparently very personal.”

After reading one of Old’s poems, how many of us would have the nerve to ask her how it felt to have experienced the events she re-creates as poetry? If a writer makes a poem or a story, shouldn’t the art speak for itself? I doubt Olds wants to imply that she is the only person who has suffered.

A poet listens to the world and reflects the world back on itself. Particular incidents are shaped to capture the essence of a real emotion, but aren’t necessarily a graphic reproduction of reality. Otherwise, who would need poetry? We could read tabloids about celebrities, and that would be enough.

15 thoughts on “Sharon Olds and the narrative voice

  1. Michelle says:

    What I would do to be at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta tonight! I’d love to hear Olds read.

    “My poems have done more accusing than admitting.” Chuckle. I can picture her saying it too.


  2. Michelle says:

    I remember a phrase she used referring to writing about the people in one’s life; she called it “the spectrum of loyalty and betrayal”. I liked it and it stayed with me.


  3. Jo says:

    Oh I’d love to go. Are you? If you do, take your camera and record it all for me (pretty please). I have to back up your remarks about autobiography……..I’m always banging on about this, but what you say is so apt, the last two paragraphs should be tacked onto every book of poetry. Wonderful.


  4. christine says:

    Jo, you make me laugh! Yes, I’m going, but I am NOT cheeky enough (grin) to record Sharon Olds. Lord a mercy! But I am going to buy her new collection, and I’ll mail it to you when I’m done reading it, k?


  5. beryl singleton bissell says:

    It’s so nice to be back online after weeks away in Italy and now in Florida and to find you again. I shall update my link to you.

    I remember the first time I read Sharon Old’s poetry being struck by the fearlessness with which she speaks, reflecting back the experience in words distilled and potent.


  6. paisley says:

    sharon is definitely one of the poets i find breathtaking… her honestly,, her ability to paint for me the precise picture of the emotion as she is feeling it,,, she is in my estimated opinion a god among poets…. my absolute favorite??? 1954 without a doubt..


  7. Evan J. Peterson says:

    I love Sharon. I got to intern with her at the Palm Beach Poetry Fest last January, and she’s a lovely person.

    By the way, thanks for commenting on “Clay” at . “Spooky, clever, and entertaining,” is exactly what I aim for!

    Evan J. Peterson


  8. christine says:

    Evan, thanks for stopping by. Last night I lurked at poemocracy, which Ilove, and listened to a bunch of your poems on your myspace page. You’re my new favorite, besides Collin Kelley, *smile*


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