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Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  623 ratings  ·  42 reviews
A powerful collection from one of our most gifted and widely read poets–117 of her finest poems drawn from her seven published volumes.

Michael Ondaatje has called Sharon Olds’s poetry “pure fire in the hands” and cheered the “roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss.” This rich select
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Knopf
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Sharon Olds is a great poet. She is vulgar and bold, but still graceful, funny and elegant. She's not afraid of saying things that aren't usually said. Please read at least a few of her poems.

I recommend: The Girl (this one is really intense), The Sisters of Sexual Treasure, The Pope's Penis
Even better than reading her work - look her up on YouTube reading them herself. Amazing.
Larry Kaplun
Mar 29, 2008 Larry Kaplun rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in contemporary narrative poetry.
There is so much to learn from the poetry of Sharon Olds, such as the courage of storytelling, the neccesity and power of imagery, the obsessions that carry us, the usage of line, and the physical shape of the poem on the page. It's been very useful to read Olds' poems on themes such as love, sex, marriage, parenthood, childhood, and death. Her obsessions are taken to the page with love and compassion, and her various elegies are some of the most powerful and beautiful of contemporary poetry. Th ...more
I really enjoyed this collection of poetry and poetry is something I rarely like to read. However, after being assigned the first 100 pages or so to read for a class, I was interested enough in Sharon Old's bold, confessional-style that I decided to read the last 80 pages on my own. Her poems can get quite graphic-many of her poems are about sexual acts-but the honesty in her words and the beautiful imagery she uses is very captivating.

Here are a couple of poems that stuck with me:

"Infinite Bli
Strike Sparks, a collection of poems from a vast body of work by Sharon Olds, reads like an autobiography - a poetic scrapbook of images, memories and experiences, some so intense that the reader is haunted by a scene as if it had come to life on a screen instead of via the written word.

The New York Times has said, "Her work has a robust sensuality, a delight in the physical that is almost Whitmanesque. She has made the minutiae of a woman's everyday life as valid a subject for poetry as the gra
I shy away from the baldly disgusting and ugly in poetry, and Sharon Olds doesn't, so even though these poems are skillfully written, they aren't my cup of tea. I mean, I love poems that are honest and made unique by personal details; I just don't enjoy reading about old men hacking up mucus, etc.

Favorite poems in the book: "I Go Back to May 1937" and "Topography"

Favorite lines:

". . . The Charles still
Slides by with that ease that made me bitter when I
Wanted all things hard as your death was har
Nic Sebastian
Another confessional poet, as diamond hard as Sylvia Plath, say, but far less allusive and with much much less of that fevered thick Amazon rainforest with so much bright and brilliant going on that in the end you just want a blindfold.

Everything you read about Olds talks about how she uses frank, direct, sometimes shocking language etc in dealing with the body and with sexuality. I don’t know, I think those must have been pretty old people writing those reviews. She’s not so much shocking as ju
so many...

The Clasp
by Sharon Olds

She was four, he was one, it was raining, we had colds,
we had been in the apartment two weeks straight,
I grabbed her to keep her from shoving him over on his
face, again, and when I had her wrist
in my grasp I compressed it, fiercely, for a couple
of seconds, to make an impression on her,
to hurt her, our beloved firstborn, I even almost
savored the stinging sensation of the squeezing,
the expression, into her, of my anger,
"Never, never, again," the righteous
chant acc
Love, love, love this poet. What separates her isn't the frank subject matter (bodies, blowjobs, childbirth) which so many poets flaunt, it's that she's so good at it. She recognizes the transitional moments of life and studies them, amplifies them, celebrates them in hilarious or horrifying detail. Her son's sixth birthday party, her daughter returning home from college, the mucus from her dying father's mouth -- she approaches each event with an intimate honesty, sometimes dreadful, sometimes ...more
These are concrete, loving poems full of strength, honesty, and passion--from detailing her childhood and troubling relationship with her father and mother to erotic poems about her husband, to poems of awe about her children's lives and growing up. There are poems about social issues as well. I highly recommend (if you want to look them up on the internet):

Indictment of Senior Officers
The Connoisseuse of Slugs
The Pope's Penis
Why My Mother Made Me
After 37 Years My Mother Apologizes for My Childh
It amazes me with what grace Olds brings all of her self into her poetry, including intimate family memories, sex, childbirth--losses and celebrations in the earthy painfulness of love, of womanhood.

Mostly, it's the seemingly casual sharing of so many sexual moments that startles me, so many appearances of the words cock and penis, so many suggestions of the power and pain of those moments. It's not something we usually talk about, not often, not so openly, giving these poems transgressive and
First the flaws for me. If you flip the pages, all you see is the same style throughout, nothing different. Free verse lines throughout, with no particularly interesting line breaks. Some have pointed out how she ended a line with "and" for example. Whoop-de-doo. Nothing impressive there. The poems are virtually all stories. Personal stories. But the key is that not many writers can do it better. They were interesting stories for the most part. Intimate stories, which I guess troubles a lot of p ...more
A useful collection of Sharon Olds earlier work. Often she takes a ver subjective first-person stance. As such these poems are fairly ordinary. Elsewhere she begins to step out, ad when she begins to confront her father's failing health. Likewise the selections from An Unswept Room are also very fine.

On her favorite topic sex, there are some moments, but too often she seems to be caught in a series of set pieces rather than capturing the new or exciting.
Dane Rune
Sharon Olds is one of my absolute favorite poets, and I am hard to please. She is absolutely amazing. Some of the reviews talk about the "shocking" nature of her poems, but I don't see that much at all, there was sexuality but it seemed daring or truthful rather than shocking or upsetteing. I think high school readers would be fine reading it, and if anyone disagrees with me they probably don't really know any high schoolers.
I have loved Sharon Olds' poetry since high school, and reading this collection was a pleasure. She hits all the important things in life with almost zero abstraction and with absolute honesty and tenderness. If you are a woman you will identify with at least some of her poetry, and deeply. Boys, as I learned in my high school English class, do not like Sharon Olds' poetry. They think it's gross.
Sharon Olds is a magician. I felt that way the first time I met her and after reading her collection, I am convinced she has powers unseen by the mere mortals around her. Her poems are fluid, visceral, stunning and lulling at the same time. I leave each one with a sigh or a gasp at how she managed to accomplish whatever magic she performed in each poem. <3
Daniel Chaikin
I'm thinking of all the different wonderful things I got out of this. Her poems on being a parent of young children were striking & memorable and something I could relate to on several levels. Her latest poems here are quite complex and would benefit, I imagine, from a closer reading. I worked through these all at quite fast pace.

If the explicit poems in this book ceased to exist - I would give the remaining poems in this collection five stars!! (I tried to skip any I could.) I wish Sharon could come in an edited version - but I guess that is not who she is. Some poetry absolutely moved me to tears. Not recommended due to offensive material and language.
The topics of these poems--Olds' father, sex, her children--seem fairly limited, but she does so much with them. I was surprised over and over again by how many different ways Olds was able to express herself with rich, sensory language. I will definitely reread this collection.
Apr 01, 2008 Cara is currently reading it
I read a poem of Sharon Old's on Inga's blog site and loved it. I hadn't read anything of hers that I can remember. I bought this book today and have already soared through almost half of it. I love her poems, but am not eloquent enough to try to explain why.
Cindy Huyser
This is an outstanding selection of Olds' poetry. Her craft is marvelous, her voice eloquent, restrained, and powerful. Loss, love, the harshness and beauty that life offers are all treated with a voice that seems effortless, and strikes spot-on.
Jan 21, 2008 J.R. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
A lot of learning can be done reading this collection. The devices she uses are at times complex & other times simplistic to the point of frustration. I find myself always looking for hidden meanings but surprised by the openness.
Why I'm only now reading Sharon Olds for the first time is beyond me. Really fantastic selected works collection, engaging all the way through, and has definitely turned me into a fan.
really good but too many penis poems in this selection. i think it's great that sharon olds writes so openly about sex, but the topic got a little tired after a while.
A lot of poems about childbirth and sex that just sat on the edge of cheesey. There were some poems worth thinking about but for the most part I didn't enjoy this one.
Not bad at all, once you get immersed in it. Birth, love, procreation, and death -- the human experience through the sensorium of Sharon Olds.
Run out and buy every poem, every collection. I am so late to the game, and just catching up to what an amazing writer Sharon Olds is.
Gail Levine
This is poetry for adults, definitely not anyone below high school. I loved the book for its metaphors and perfect word choice.
Lisa Asanuma
Very likely my favorite modern poet. Definitely some racy stuff, but she's got such clarity... I love her poems.
Got this collection for my birthday and am enjoying the new pieces I've not read before.
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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...
The Dead and the Living The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series) Satan Says (Pitt Poetry Series) Stag's Leap: Poems The Wellspring

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