poem index


Sharon Olds

1942- , San Francisco , CA , United States
Chancellor 2006-2012
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Born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942, Sharon Olds earned a BA at Stanford University and a PhD at Columbia University.

Her first collection of poems, Satan Says (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Olds's following collection, The Dead & the Living (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), received the Lamont Poetry Selection in 1983 and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Her other collections include Stag's Leap (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize; One Secret Thing (Random House, 2008); Strike Sparks: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004); The Unswept Room (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002); Blood, Tin, Straw (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999); The Gold Cell (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997); The Wellspring (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995); and The Father (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992); which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

About Olds's poetry, one reviewer for the New York Times said, "Her work has a robust sensuality, a delight in the physical that is almost Whitmanesque. She has made the minutiae of a woman's everyday life as valid a subject for poetry as the grand abstract themes that have preoccupied other poets."

Olds is the recipient of the 2016 Wallace Stevens Award. About Olds, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Mark Doty said:

With unfailing courage and a profound moral intelligence, with an unshakable faith in the necessity of inquiry into experience, Sharon Olds has crafted a life’s work of remarkable power. The driving rhythms and artful structures of her poems are in service of a rigorous examination of her own life, and the lives of those around her. By writing with such candor and clarity, Olds has granted younger poets—especially women—permission to speak. Her poems, in their evocation of trauma or desire, in their grief and joy and comedy, have opened new possibilities for poetry in our time. She is an American master, and a national treasure.

Her numerous other honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Her poetry has been anthologized in more than a hundred collections.

Olds held the position of New York state poet laureate from 1998 to 2000. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2006 to 2012. She currently teaches poetry workshops at New York University's Graduate Creative Writing Program as well as a workshop at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York City.


Stag's Leap (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)
One Secret Thing (Random House, 2008)
Strike Sparks: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004)
The Unswept Room (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)
Blood, Tin, Straw (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)
The Gold Cell (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)
The Wellspring (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)
The Father (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)
The Dead & the Living (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984)
Satan Says (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980)


Sharon Olds: The Poetry & Legacy of Adrienne Rich

Sharon Olds: The Poetry & Legacy of Adrienne Rich

Sharon Olds at Poets Forum 2008

Sharon Olds Speaks at the 2008 Poets Forum

by this poet


At dusk, on those evenings she does not go out,
my mother potters around her house.
Her daily helpers are gone, there is no one
there, no one to tell what to do,
she wanders, sometimes she talks to herself,
fondly scolding, sometimes she suddenly
throws out her arms and screams—high

                (for Lucille)

Our voices race to the towers, and up beyond
the atmosphere, to the satellite,
slowly turning, then back down
to another tower, and cell. Quincy, 
Toi, Honoree, Sarah, Dorianne, 
Galway. When Athena Elizalex calls, 
I tell her I'm missing Lucille's dresses,
and her
(Ruth Stone, June 8, 1915 - November 19, 2011)

And suddenly, it's today, it's this morning
they are putting Ruth into the earth,
her breasts going down, under the hill,
like the moon and sun going down together.
O I know, it's not Ruth—what was Ruth 
went out, slowly, but this was her form,