Sharon Olds’ ‘The Wellspring’ a worthwhile ‘psychedelic trip’


This year marks the nineteenth anniversary of Sharon Olds’ emotionally charged “The Wellspring.”

Olds, who served as New York State Poet from 1998 through 2000, reaches breathtakingly new depths in the modern poetry world with her 1996 verse collection.

Award-winning Canadian poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje calls her collection “pure fire in the hands — risky, on the verge of falling, and in the end leaping up.” Olds’ compilation is on par with such classic poets as Robert Frost — although “The Wellspring” is more truthfully a psychedelic trip than a trip down a road less traveled by.

“The Wellspring” dives into the very fountain of existence.

The reader is there for Olds’ earliest memory “where she swam in light,” into her awkward adolescence “filled with school glue and Eros and Amelia Earhart.” Her poems span first lusts, loves and losses.

Olds writes about raw human experience and dares self-awareness. Her collection is truly moving — you will see the world from a whole new angle.

In crafting her poetic artwork, Olds took into account the weight of every detail, right down to specifics of history.

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

Olds, now 73, was born in San Francisco, and attended Stanford and Columbia. For previous books she has received the San Francisco Poetry Center Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and in 2012, the Pulitzer Prize.

“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” (2012).