The Poetry Concierge Recommends: Sharon Olds

[The Poetry Concierge is an occasional feature here on Rosemary and Reading Glasses wherein I select a poem, poet, or book of poems for individual readers based on a short questionnaire. Come play along! Read the introductory post here, my first recommendation here, and then email me at: rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com. ]

This week, our pilgrim in search of poetry is Laura, who writes about things bookish at Reading In Bed.

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

This is hard, there’s no one author who is perfect in my eyes. I might say Michael Ondaatje because I’m in love with him right now. Or I might say David Adams Richards, who if you haven’t read him, lists Faulkner, Dostoyevsky and Emily Bronte among his influences, which sounds about right.

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

Personal essays, feminism

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

Astray by Emma Donoghue
The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B, Sandra Gulland
The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (haven’t read it yet FYI but it’s calling to me)

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?
Love in the Time of Cholera
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Stone Angel
Mercy Among the Children
Having trouble with #5!

5. What kinds of questions are most likely to keep you up at night? (death, the nature of love, politics, environmental issues, meaning of life, end of the world, justice and injustice, etc?)

Nature of love 80+% of the time

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

I like prose that reads like poetry. See comment about The English Patient above. In high school I liked John Donne. I liked The Inferno.

Like Kay last week, Laura’s given me lots to work with here: a wide range of authors (not surprising, I guess, since her one of her reading lists is 1001 books long), varied in tone, themes, and style; defined interests; and an openness to poetry in general.

Now, I was tempted to cheat a little and recommend Michael Ondaatje right off (maybe The Cinnamon Peeler?), but I suspect Laura’s thought of that one already. Given her interests in feminism and personal essays, though, I started thinking about feminist poets: Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Carol Ann Duffy, Katha Pollitt, Carmen Giménez Smith (by no means is this an exhaustive list). I think Laura would like the work of any of these poets (and I was inches from choosing Audre Lorde’s “Now That I Am Forever with Child” but I can’t find an online source with copyright permission, so try your local library for her Collected Poems.).

That said, I think the work of Sharon Olds would appeal to Laura, and so I’m recommending Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002, which I think gives a rounded view of her work up until that point (she’s published two collections since then; Stag’s Leap won the 2013 Pulitzer for poetry.

Ms. Olds draws on her personal experiences and familial relationships (and not infrequently, her sex life) to construct poems that are simultaneously deeply personal and startlingly universal. While her work is sometimes controversial because of its sexual content, I’m guessing Laura won’t bat an eye after that time we read a paranormal romance.

For now though, Dear Readers, here’s a G-rated but jarring poem to get you started with Sharon Olds:

“I Could Not Tell”

Laura, I hope you’ll find poems you love in this book (Michael Ondaatje did!).  Thanks for writing in!

Would you like the Poetry Concierge to make a recommendation for you? Check out the introductory post, and send your answers to the questionnaire, along with the name and/or blog you’d like posted with the reply, to rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com.

10 thoughts on “The Poetry Concierge Recommends: Sharon Olds

  1. I found the Lorde poem online and you made the right choice with “I Could Not Tell.” The Lorde one is too sentimental for me. I probably feel that way because I hate being pregnant 🙂 I love the subversiveness of the one you chose.

    Strike Sparks is available at my library branch soooo guess where I’m going tomorrow?

    This is perfect. It’s quite magical what you’ve done here Carolyn!

  2. Hey so I finally placed a hold on this book… so I’ll be able to tell you how I like it really soon! I also bought a copy of Boy Snow Bird yesterday on the strength of your review, so you are really influencing me this week 🙂

  3. Pingback: In my bed: June 2014 | Reading in Bed

  4. Pingback: No Joke: The Poetry Concierge Returns – Rosemary and Reading Glasses

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