Sharon Olds's dazzling collection is a sequence of poems that reaches into the very wellspring of life. The poems take us back to the womb, and from there on to childhood, to a searing sexual awakening, to the shock of childbirth, to the wonder and humor of parenthood--and, finally, to the depths of adult love. Always bold, musical, honest, these poems plunge us into the essence of experience. This is a highly charged, beautifully organized collection from one of the finest poets writing today.



"Sharon Olds's poems are pure fire in the hands--risky, on the verge of falling, and in the end leaping up. I love the roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss."--Michael Ondaatje
Bathing the New Born

I love with an almost fearful love
to remember the first baths I gave him--
our second child, our first son--
I laid the little torso along
my left forearm, nape of the neck
in the crook of my elbow, hips nearly as
small as a least tern's hips
against my wrist, thigh held loosely
in the loop of thumb and forefinger,
the sign that means exactly right. I'd soap him,
the long, violet, cold feet,
the scrotum wrinkled as a waved whelk shell
so new it was flexible yet, the chest,
the hands, the clavicles, the throat, the gummy
furze of the scalp. When I got him too soapy he'd
slide in my grip like an armful of buttered
noodles, but I'd hold him not too tight,
I felt that I was good for him,
I'd tell him about his wonderful body
and the wonderful soap, and he'd look up at me,
one week old, his eyes still wide
and apprehensive. I love that time
when you croon and croon to them, you can see
the calm slowly entering them, you can
sense it in your clasping hand,
the little spine relaxing against
the muscle of your forearm, you feel the fear
leaving their bodies, he lay in the blue
oval plastic baby tub and
looked at me in wonder and began to
move his silky limbs at will in the water.
© 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

Sharon Olds's dazzling collection is a sequence of poems that reaches into the very wellspring of life. The poems take us back to the womb, and from there on to childhood, to a searing sexual awakening, to the shock of childbirth, to the wonder and humor of parenthood--and, finally, to the depths of adult love. Always bold, musical, honest, these poems plunge us into the essence of experience. This is a highly charged, beautifully organized collection from one of the finest poets writing today.



"Sharon Olds's poems are pure fire in the hands--risky, on the verge of falling, and in the end leaping up. I love the roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss."--Michael Ondaatje

Excerpt

Bathing the New Born

I love with an almost fearful love
to remember the first baths I gave him--
our second child, our first son--
I laid the little torso along
my left forearm, nape of the neck
in the crook of my elbow, hips nearly as
small as a least tern's hips
against my wrist, thigh held loosely
in the loop of thumb and forefinger,
the sign that means exactly right. I'd soap him,
the long, violet, cold feet,
the scrotum wrinkled as a waved whelk shell
so new it was flexible yet, the chest,
the hands, the clavicles, the throat, the gummy
furze of the scalp. When I got him too soapy he'd
slide in my grip like an armful of buttered
noodles, but I'd hold him not too tight,
I felt that I was good for him,
I'd tell him about his wonderful body
and the wonderful soap, and he'd look up at me,
one week old, his eyes still wide
and apprehensive. I love that time
when you croon and croon to them, you can see
the calm slowly entering them, you can
sense it in your clasping hand,
the little spine relaxing against
the muscle of your forearm, you feel the fear
leaving their bodies, he lay in the blue
oval plastic baby tub and
looked at me in wonder and began to
move his silky limbs at will in the water.

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

Books for Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Every May we celebrate the rich history and culture of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Browse a curated selection of fiction and nonfiction books by AANHPI creators that we think your students will love. Find our full collection of titles for Higher Education here.

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