Strike Sparks

Selected Poems, 1980-2002

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Paperback
$19.95 US
On sale Sep 28, 2004 | 208 Pages | 978-0-375-71076-6
A powerful collection from one of our most gifted and widely read poets–117 of her finest poems drawn from her seven published volumes.

Michael Ondaatje has called Sharon Olds’s poetry “pure fire in the hands” and cheered the “roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss.” This rich selection exhibits those qualities in poem after poem, reflecting, moreover, an exciting experimentation with rhythm and language and a movement toward an embrace beyond the personal. Subjects are revisited–the pain of childhood, adolescent sexual stirrings, the fulfillment of marriage, the wonder of children–but each recasting penetrates ever more deeply, enriched by new perceptions and conceits.

Strike Sparks is a testament to this remarkable poet’s continuing and amazing growth.
From Satan Says (1980)
Indictment of Senior Officers
The Sisters of Sexual Treasure
Station
Monarchs
Infinite Bliss
The Language of the Brag
The Talk
I Could Not Tell
 
From The Dead and the Living (1984)
Ideographs
Photograph of the Girl
Race Riot, Tulsa, 1921
Of All the Dead That Have Come to Me, This Once
Miscarriage
My Father Snoring
The Moment
The Connoisseuse of Slugs
New Mother
Sex Without Love
Ecstasy
Exclusive
Rite of Passage
35⁄10
The Missing Boy
Bestiary
The One Girl at the Boys’ Party
 
From The Gold Cell (1987)
Summer Solstice, New York City
On the Subway
The Food-Thief
The Girl
The Pope’s Penis
When
I Go Back to May 1937
Alcatraz
Why My Mother Made Me
After 37 Years My Mother Apologizes for My Childhood
Cambridge Elegy
Topography
I Cannot Forget the Woman in the Mirror
The Moment the Two Worlds Meet
Little Things
The Month of June: 13½
Looking at Them Asleep
 
From The Father (1992)
The Glass
His Stillness
The Lifting
The Race
Wonder
The Feelings
His Ashes
Beyond Harm
The Underlife
Natural History
The Ferryer
I Wanted to Be There When My Father Died
Waste Sonata
My Father Speaks to Me from the Dead
 
From The Wellspring (1996)
My Parents’ Wedding Night, 1937
Japanese-American Farmhouse, California, 1942
Killing My Sister’s Fish
Mrs. Krikorian
First
Adolescence
May 1968
Bathing the New Born
41, Alone, No Gerbil
Physics
My Son the Man
First Formal
High School Senior
The Pediatrician Retires
This Hour
Full Summer
Am and Am Not
True Love
 
From Blood, Tin, Straw (1999)
The Promise
Know-Nothing
Dear Heart,
19
That Day
After Punishment Was Done with Me
What Is the Earth?
Leaving the Island
The Prepositions
1954
Cool Breeze
For and Against Knowledge
The Spouses Waking Up in the Hotel Mirror
You Kindly
Where Will Love Go?
The Protestor
The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb
The Talkers
First Thanksgiving
The Native
The Knowing
 
From The Unswept Room (2002)
Kindergarten Abecedarian
Bible Study: 71 B.C.E.
5¢ a Peek
Grey Girl
Still Life in Landscape
The Wedding Vow
His Costume
First Weeks
The Clasp
Diaphragm Aria
The Window
Fish Oil
Wonder as Wander
The Shyness
April, New Hampshire
The Untangling
The Learner
Heaven to Be
The Tending
Psalm
The Unswept
Topography

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
intricately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep inside your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

First Thanksgiving

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object, like a
soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, fresh
from the other world — which lay, from within him,
within me. Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing — whirling, over the months,
in a steady blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing,
then tossed them back
into the air — I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.
© Hillery Stone
SHARON OLDS was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. She is the recipient of the Frost Medal for lifetime achievement, as well as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the UK’s T. S. Eliot Prize for her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap. She is the author of twelve previous books of poetry and the recipient of many other awards and honors, including the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award for her first book, Satan Says (1980), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her second, The Dead and the Living, which was also the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helped found the NYU outreach programs, among them the writing workshop for residents of the former S. S. Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She lives in New York City. View titles by Sharon Olds

About

A powerful collection from one of our most gifted and widely read poets–117 of her finest poems drawn from her seven published volumes.

Michael Ondaatje has called Sharon Olds’s poetry “pure fire in the hands” and cheered the “roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss.” This rich selection exhibits those qualities in poem after poem, reflecting, moreover, an exciting experimentation with rhythm and language and a movement toward an embrace beyond the personal. Subjects are revisited–the pain of childhood, adolescent sexual stirrings, the fulfillment of marriage, the wonder of children–but each recasting penetrates ever more deeply, enriched by new perceptions and conceits.

Strike Sparks is a testament to this remarkable poet’s continuing and amazing growth.

Table of Contents

From Satan Says (1980)
Indictment of Senior Officers
The Sisters of Sexual Treasure
Station
Monarchs
Infinite Bliss
The Language of the Brag
The Talk
I Could Not Tell
 
From The Dead and the Living (1984)
Ideographs
Photograph of the Girl
Race Riot, Tulsa, 1921
Of All the Dead That Have Come to Me, This Once
Miscarriage
My Father Snoring
The Moment
The Connoisseuse of Slugs
New Mother
Sex Without Love
Ecstasy
Exclusive
Rite of Passage
35⁄10
The Missing Boy
Bestiary
The One Girl at the Boys’ Party
 
From The Gold Cell (1987)
Summer Solstice, New York City
On the Subway
The Food-Thief
The Girl
The Pope’s Penis
When
I Go Back to May 1937
Alcatraz
Why My Mother Made Me
After 37 Years My Mother Apologizes for My Childhood
Cambridge Elegy
Topography
I Cannot Forget the Woman in the Mirror
The Moment the Two Worlds Meet
Little Things
The Month of June: 13½
Looking at Them Asleep
 
From The Father (1992)
The Glass
His Stillness
The Lifting
The Race
Wonder
The Feelings
His Ashes
Beyond Harm
The Underlife
Natural History
The Ferryer
I Wanted to Be There When My Father Died
Waste Sonata
My Father Speaks to Me from the Dead
 
From The Wellspring (1996)
My Parents’ Wedding Night, 1937
Japanese-American Farmhouse, California, 1942
Killing My Sister’s Fish
Mrs. Krikorian
First
Adolescence
May 1968
Bathing the New Born
41, Alone, No Gerbil
Physics
My Son the Man
First Formal
High School Senior
The Pediatrician Retires
This Hour
Full Summer
Am and Am Not
True Love
 
From Blood, Tin, Straw (1999)
The Promise
Know-Nothing
Dear Heart,
19
That Day
After Punishment Was Done with Me
What Is the Earth?
Leaving the Island
The Prepositions
1954
Cool Breeze
For and Against Knowledge
The Spouses Waking Up in the Hotel Mirror
You Kindly
Where Will Love Go?
The Protestor
The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb
The Talkers
First Thanksgiving
The Native
The Knowing
 
From The Unswept Room (2002)
Kindergarten Abecedarian
Bible Study: 71 B.C.E.
5¢ a Peek
Grey Girl
Still Life in Landscape
The Wedding Vow
His Costume
First Weeks
The Clasp
Diaphragm Aria
The Window
Fish Oil
Wonder as Wander
The Shyness
April, New Hampshire
The Untangling
The Learner
Heaven to Be
The Tending
Psalm
The Unswept

Excerpt

Topography

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
intricately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep inside your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

First Thanksgiving

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object, like a
soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, fresh
from the other world — which lay, from within him,
within me. Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing — whirling, over the months,
in a steady blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing,
then tossed them back
into the air — I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.

Author

© Hillery Stone
SHARON OLDS was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. She is the recipient of the Frost Medal for lifetime achievement, as well as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the UK’s T. S. Eliot Prize for her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap. She is the author of twelve previous books of poetry and the recipient of many other awards and honors, including the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award for her first book, Satan Says (1980), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her second, The Dead and the Living, which was also the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helped found the NYU outreach programs, among them the writing workshop for residents of the former S. S. Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She lives in New York City. View titles by Sharon Olds

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