Old poems reach new depths in modern poetry world


Poet Sharon Olds’ emotionally charged 1996 verse collection, “The Wellspring” reaches breathtakingly new depths in the modern poetry world.

Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje calls the collection “pure fire in the hands — risky, on the verge of falling, and in the end leaping up.”

Olds’ work is on par with that of classic poets like Robert Frost, although “The Wellspring” is truthfully more of a psychedelic trip than a trip down a road less traveled.

“The Wellspring” dives into the very fountain of existence. Olds carries the reader “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,” according to publisher Alfred A. Knopf. 

The reader is present for Olds’ earliest memory “where she swam in light” into her awkward adolescence “filled with school glue and Eros and Amelia Earhart.”

First lusts, loves and losses, Olds writes about raw human experience and self-awareness.

Her collection is truly moving, prodding audiences to see the world from a whole new perspective. In crafting her poetic artwork, Olds takes into account the weight of every detail, right down to the historic type.

Olds liberated her poetic convention attachment. Freed, she began writing about family, abuse and sex — themes that brashly resonate throughout “The Wellspring.”

Olds relates her own works to that of poets such as Galway Kinnell, Muriel Rukeyser and Gwendolyn Brooks, rather than the confessional works of Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plath.

Olds, 73, was born in San Francisco and attended Stanford and Columbia.

From her previous books, she has received the San Francisco Poetry Center Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Dead and the Living was the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983; The Father was shortlisted for England’s T.S. Eliot Prize.

Now living in New York, Olds teaches poetry workshops at New York University and Goldwater Hospital on New York’s Roosevelt Island.

Other unmentioned literary thrills from Olds include: “Satan Says,” “The Gold Cell,” “The Unswept Room” and her latest work “Stag’s Leap.” She has since completed five more collections and many odes to common objects.