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The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,898 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
A new collection by the much praised poet whose second book THE DEAD AND THE LIVING, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Paperback, 112 pages
Published February 12th 1987 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Aug 25, 2010 Jamie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the confessional movement
Recommended to Jamie by: Gina
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2010
I think "The Gold Cell" rests more comfortably in the 3.5 star space, but alas. Is this a great volume? Not to my mind. It is a quite good one, very solid in places, and stunning in a few. The thing is, just as it shines brightly in some moments, it falls entirely dull at others. I found the section on her father (the second?) to be particularly trying to work through. The book is broken into four parts: one outside of the biographical (?) narrator's vantage point; one directed to her father; on ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Jun 01, 2014 Roger DeBlanck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The renown of Sharon Olds’s work is partly due to her ability to have no inhibitions about bearing her soul, especially in regard to sharing the intimacies of her life, whether the subject is carnal love, the ecstasy of love, or the devotional love she has for her children. The other major appeal to her work is the brilliance of her style and language to probe the essence of her subject matter. In this collection, the catalyst for many of the poems is her trademark theme of confronting her child ...more
May 07, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing
There are so many great lines and so many classic poems in this book, it's like reading a best-of collection. Olds's talent is ridiculous, nearly unreachable in this collection. I read some of these poems and felt changed, like I was absorbing something that could barely fit into me.The pendulum here swings from anger and horror to beauty and love effortlessly, like life in real time. Favorite poems include "Summer Solstice, New York City," "The Girl," "I Go Back to May 1937," "Looking at My Fat ...more
Uneven as any collection might be, but much more good than mediocre in this collection. Divided such that early poems deal with her parents, middle with her marriage, and final with her two children. Too bad they cannot be used in middle school classrooms, for the most part, as Olds proves that you can write poetry about anything -- even sex.
Dec 14, 2010 km rated it really liked it
there was a girl in my poetry workshop years ago who wrote exactly like olds (minus the awkward references to a man's penis as his "sex") and i was so seethingly, silently jealous of her
Aug 31, 2011 Kristina rated it liked it
I always feel like I'm reading her diary whenever I open up a book of Sharon Olds' poetry. A juicy, carefully written diary she's left open on my bedside table.
Mar 08, 2016 Annie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, poetry
Anthologies are great: It's impossible for every poem in a collection to be amazing, but an anthology is the best of the best, all of the important parts mapped out and easily accessible. But it's also good to wade through a collection on your own, in an order the poet originally intended, marking off your own discoveries of the good and the bad. "The Gold Cell" has a very intentional structure, each part with a common theme as it relates to Olds' life. There is a feeling of development, as we w ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Pascale rated it liked it
I actively avoid reading poetry, perhaps because it annoys me that I imagine the Poet too well as she writes.
The Poet is leaning back against a rock outcropping, a pen and notebook in hand, her eyes half-closed, and is taking in the magnificent views and the last few rays of sun on a fall afternoon. She is in communion with Nature. A gentle breeze caresses her long tresses, but her brow is unmarred by perspiration; her perfectly stylish retro taupe skirt and cream crepe blouse bought at name br
Apr 17, 2013 Zoe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013books, poetry
Sometimes you read things and you wish you had read them earlier. Like, I'm not sure how I made it through an Oberlin education without some clove-smoking greasy-haired girl with a tongue stud shoving a book of Sharon Olds poems into my hands, but I did. But I'm glad I've read these poems now because they are stunning and complete and real, and they branch out and touch so many other parts of my life.

The language in "On The Subway" reminds me of Kevin Sampsell's "I Love A Woman Who Eats Animals"
William Cooper
Sep 17, 2014 William Cooper rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
One of the first real contemporary American Poetry books I read. I picked it up in a college bookstore and read Summer Solstice New York City and it was probably one of the best poems I had encountered up until that point in my life. Great writing throughout and Olds is probably at the height of her writing in this collection. I eventually picked up Satan Says and The Dead and the Living.
Niya B
Jun 22, 2015 Niya B rated it it was ok
Olds writes some compelling, provocative pieces on the connection, at a cellular level that a mother experiences with her children, and those are the most engaging pieces in the collection. They are so evocative that they make some of the less emotionally charged pieces almost seem like filler - which isn't terrible since readers require a break from that level of intensity, but it makes one wish for more complexity in the work as a whole.
Mar 01, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Poems rooted in the flesh; in the cells of the flesh.
This is organic, slippery, palpitating poetry.
Especially good is the ordering of the poems, circling from the macro to the micro and back; moving from development to sex to birth to development--the notion of continuity, regeneration, growth, life is fascinatingly presented.
Rebecca Curtis
Showing an amazing range of poetry in this collection Sharon Olds captures her personal journey from a childhood full of abuse to a healthy and happy adult life. While the poems range from dark and haunting to light and airy the themes and language used are so powerful that each poem is worth the read.
Nicki Hill
Nov 23, 2015 Nicki Hill rated it really liked it
it's the stuff about her parents, her father in particular. spectacular. forgiving. "And what they did to you you did not do to me. When love you now, I like to think I am giving my love directly to that boy in the fiery room, as if it could reach him in time."
Jan 20, 2008 W.B. rated it really liked it
There are always good poems in an Olds collection. There are always cringeworthy poems in an Olds collection. That much said, the books are usually worth owning. I love the one in here written to the pope's penis, and the one about the man with his half-formed brother growing out of his chest. The visceral--and horror stories from the news (addressed in a punchy style) seem to be her two favorite themes and are her strong suits. Focusing on the Freudian family is her default mode when the Furies ...more
Rachelle Jones
Jan 06, 2015 Rachelle Jones rated it really liked it
The last section is my favorite, I love the way Olds writes about parenthood. I usually skim the middle section, I find her writing about sexuality uncomfortably raw and overdone. I do get a giggle over “The Pope’s Penis” but I feel a twinge of guilt when I read it. “The Green Shirt” about her son’s broken arm is one of my favorite poems, ever. The last line comes to my mind often as I raise my own children.
/our eyes fill, we cannot look at each other, we watch him carefully and kindly soap the
Aug 11, 2008 Paula rated it really liked it
Brilliant but tough to read because the subject matter is so personal; it's borderline confessional poetry. Then again, Olds is known for her frank, raw imagery.

This particular volume of poetry is divided into four sections that roughly correspond to four stages of her life: pre-birth/relationship between her parents, childhood/relationship with her parents, adolescence/relationships outside her family, and adulthood/motherhood. Not all of the poems are about Olds, though, and those that deviate
Nov 12, 2015 Clong rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Someone should tell Sharon Olds that it is possible to write a poem without the use of sexual imagery. Seems very one trick ponyish. There were good poetic elements. But on the whole she seemed to rely too heavily on shock and awe. A poem about grotesque conjoined twins. A poem about a brutal rape and murder of two twelve year olds. A poem about a baby abandoned in a garbage can...etc. etc. I read recently that good writing can be used to say to the world, "look at who we are!" Sharon Olds makes ...more
Nov 16, 2011 Bethany rated it really liked it
I appreciate that Olds uses material from her life to make a beautiful poem. at times I find the sexual language to be a little too much, though. also at times i feel like the language could be a little more original or she could stray from her comfort zone to discover a different structure or tone, but if she did, she wouldn't be her. there are poets who stick to one mode and it works for them and that's what they are known for. and there are poets who differ so greatly in various poems that yo ...more
Jun 01, 2008 E rated it it was amazing
The first time I read this collection of poems, I was shocked out of my socks, and it felt good. The ways that family torments and saves - sometimes simultaneously - is a recurrent feature. Metaphors that strike home. Sometimes, you might feel after finishing one of her poems about family that your stomach has flipped inside-out and left you holding all the gross, gooey parts in your hands. Then, the moments of self-cleansing, self-clarification, and epiphany fall into place, and you're glad you ...more
Jen Maidenberg
Mar 11, 2014 Jen Maidenberg rated it really liked it
Vivid. Poignant. Almost too much for my fragile heart in some places. But one of the most accessible poets I have read so far. And really keeps it real
Kelsey Fitzpatrick
Feb 06, 2011 Kelsey Fitzpatrick rated it really liked it
Olds does a beautiful job falling between personal experience and generally relatable events. The Gold Cell is broken down into 4 different sections, each with its own personality. A personal favorite of mine is "I go back to May 1937." This poem intensifies a relationship of a girl looking at a photograph and her parents. She writes wishing they would have never gotten married, but quickly retracts with thanking her chance for life. Most of the book portrays a broken family and the resulting su ...more
Jul 16, 2012 Justin rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Good, though somewhat uneven, collection of poems that center on the different stages of life. Some of the poems, like "Summer Solstice, New York City," "The Solution," and "I Go Back to May 1937," are extremely powerful and were deeply moving for me, while a lot of the other ones were so-so. I think I'd probably enjoy the book more if I had kids; so maybe I'll come back and read it again in the future. I also think women may get more out of this book, as well, since it's largely female/mother-c ...more
this is one of those books that was pure magic. i went to te bookstore with no spefic wish in mind. I picked up this book opened to a page. "for my father" the title, the date June 24th. Connection? My grandmother born on that very day gave birth to my father, who was then described in that poems words....

with other poems such as "after 24(?) years my mother apologizes for my childhhod" and the story of "blue dress" to comic relief "pope's penis" and my all-time favorite "the solution."

and I am
May 14, 2012 Danah rated it liked it
Sharon Old's writing is thematically very deep and raw, and the writing is beautiful while also being harsh. From a technical standpoint, being a writer myself, I like it very much. However, there are only so many poems that need to have sex included in the imagery. Quite frankly, my favorites are the ones that don't have it. (Basically, the entire third section of the book)
If you are a fan of poetry, you should probably check this out as a great example of confessional poetry. If you are a casu
Tim Weakley
Jul 30, 2015 Tim Weakley rated it did not like it
Used as a placeholder for a periodical since Goodreads doesn't allow for them
Dec 07, 2015 Ken rated it really liked it
A collection of poems documenting relationships, abuse, marriage and parenting.
Nov 09, 2015 Kit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recentlyread
a few dated poems in the first section but then... look out!
Stanley Gemmell
Jun 18, 2015 Stanley Gemmell rated it it was amazing
Natalie Hoekstra
Apr 09, 2014 Natalie Hoekstra rated it it was amazing
This book is everything to me, as a young woman and a poet.
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  • Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980
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  • Human Wishes
  • Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
  • Without: Poems
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  • Blue Iris: Poems and Essays
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  • Selected Poems
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Born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942, Sharon Olds earned a B.A. at Stanford University and a Ph.D. at Columbia University.

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

Her other col
More about Sharon Olds...

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