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Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge April 2022

Blasting You With Poetry: 2022, Week 2

April is National Poetry Month.

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On Thursdays throughout April, Bonny, Kat, Sarah, and I will be sharing poetry with you. This week, we'll all be sharing poems by contemporary poet Sharon Olds.

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There are a few poets that I feel . . . write just for me. I really "get" their poetry. It resonates with me. I read their work over and over and over again; it just never gets old.

Sharon Olds . . . is not one of those poets. I do really enjoy some of her poetry. (Some of it very much.) But there's also a lot that .  . . doesn't quite do it for me.

And that's okay! I think it's worth mentioning this, especially during National Poetry Month. Just because a poet is well-known and has won many awards, or has an excellent reputation in the world of literature . . . well. It doesn't mean that we'll enjoy reading all of it. It's not a "failing" on our part if we don't "get it" or if it doesn't speak to us. Sometimes Art (of any kind -- music, film, literature, visual, you name it) just doesn't appeal to us. It's a personal thing, y'know? A matter of individual taste. And that's okay. We like what we like, and we don't all need to like the same stuff.

So.
Back to Sharon Olds. 

Her personal story is fascinating. She had a complicated upbringing, lived through some traumatic events, fell in love, got married, raised a couple of kids. Then her husband left her after 30 years of marriage. For a younger woman. She works all of this out . . .  in her poetry, which tends to be very personal. Here is the opening paragraph from her bio on the Poetry Foundation website:

Sharon Olds is one of contemporary poetry’s leading voices. Winner of several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, Olds is known for writing intensely personal, emotionally scathing poetry which graphically depicts family life as well as global political events. “Sharon Olds is enormously self-aware,” wrote David Leavitt in the Voice Literary Supplement. “Her poetry is remarkable for its candor, its eroticism, and its power to move.” Olds’s candor has led to both high praise and condemnation. Her work is often built out of intimate details concerning her children, her fraught relationship with her parents and, most controversially, her sex life. 

I've read a lot of Sharon Olds' poetry over the years. I find her writing to be powerful, accessible -- and very, very direct. There are several Sharon Olds poems that I include among my "favorite poems," even though some of her work is . . . a little too intimate and challenging for me. Still. I'm always glad to explore the work of poets I'm not immediately drawn to. Because even when someone else's personal pain is so different from your own personal pain, you can usually find that universal . . . sharing of emotion . . .  that comes from poetry.

Like this one that I'm sharing today. It's one of my favorite Sharon Olds poems; maybe a little on the racy side? But a real gem. And it's a great example of the expert way she plays with words to paint a picture of . . . well. You'll figure it out. ;-)

Enjoy!

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Topography
Sharon Olds

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 in your Texas, your
Idaho 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.

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Today's poem is from my copy of Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002, by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. For more information about today's poet, Sharon Olds, and to sample more of her work, click here.

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Be sure to visit Bonny, Kat, and Sarah today to read more poems by Sharon Olds.

 

Comments

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Bonny

What a great introduction to Sharon Olds' background and that poem! I read a lot of her poetry while I was looking for one for today, but I don't think I came across this one. (I would have remembered it, she said while blushing.) She is a personal poet who makes no apologies, all while using words in some wild and brilliant ways. Thanks for sharing!

Vicki

That's fantastic!! Thank you!

Carole

That poem is gorgeous, what a way to think about reuniting with a loved one.

Vera

What fun and so playful - different in tone than the poems that Bonny, Kat and Sarah chose. It's cool that you all shared poems from the same person today. I am really enjoying this.

Sarah

I agree that sometimes she's a little too intimate for me, but I do identify a lot with how she writes, with her phrasing and rhythm -- the mechanics more than the subject matter. And even though this is a tad racy, I love what she's done with this one! It's vaguely familiar to me, so I must have read it before, but I enjoyed revisiting it!

Mary

I'm enjoying this intro to Sharon Olds. She's a new-to-me poet. (and maybe your comments help me understand why she hasn't turned up on my radar before?!) Anyway, thank you for sharing!

kat

Great poem, Kym! In my research I, like you, found some of Sharon's poetry .... challenging .... but I agree with you... everyone does not *get* all forms of artwork. Yet, the not getting it part does not in any way diminish the artwork. Likewise with the volumes of Sharon's poetry... even not *getting* all of her poetry, there was still something that spoke to me. Her honesty perhaps... she is beautifully direct.


Thank you so much for sharing this poem!

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