Feature

Author of the week: Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds’s most recent collection of poems, “Stag’s Leap,” won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Poet Sharon Olds waited a long time to say what she wanted to about divorce, said Mike Pride in the Concord, N.H., Monitor. Olds’s most recent collection, Stag’s Leap, was mostly written in the late 1990s, about the time her 32-year marriage ended. But she promised her adult children not to publish the poems for a decade, and she kept her word. The wait, she says now, helped the book because she had greater perspective when she assembled and revised the poems. “When a marriage has worked for a long time, there’s a lot that’s positive,” she says. And for the 70-year-old Olds, completing Stag’s Leap didn’t just provide personal closure; last month, the book won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. “This is something I thought would never happen in my life,” she says. “It was beyond unexpected.”

Stag’s Leap confronts the realities of divorce head-on, said Brittany Wong in HuffingtonPost.com. There are poems about sitting her children on the couch to break the news, and about seeing her ex-husband with his new girlfriend. She also wrote about how she idealized her husband until the marriage ended. “I had to tune each poem, and tune the book, to get the balance of its qualities right to me—the idealizing, the anger, the self-pity,” she says. Despite her raw emotions at the time, she enjoyed the work. “I think not writing is a lot more painful than writing,” she says. “Working—though it’s really a kind of playing—to make something that can stand on its own, a small song, that’s fun.”

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