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The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)

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4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,021 Ratings  ·  89 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
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jamie
Aug 02, 2010 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
May 21, 2014 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 focuses on confronting her childhood abuse at t ...more
Kevin
Apr 26, 2012 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
Drew
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Today I'm not interested in perfection. I'm interested in truth, in viewpoints unconcerned with spin, in observations that have nothing to sell but a humanized reality. Oh, thank you, Sharon Olds. Your poetic ruminations -- of you facing your parents as the troubling creatures they were, of you watching your children as the trembling creations they are -- are like little electric jolts bringing me back to life, to consciousness. You reanimate the zombified mind and fix my eyes up with an overdue ...more
Ken
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.
km
Dec 14, 2010 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
Kristina
Aug 07, 2011 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.
Linda
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Her poetry was very personal... I could not relate well to most of it except a few dealing with her role as a mother. One in particular hit me as genius: "That Moment." It seems to be about when she fully accepted her role as a mother to her children... Even if we give birth to children, we still have to decide in our hearts and minds to give our lives over to their upbringing and care. Maybe it happens gradually. Maybe at conception; maybe it happens at their birth; maybe sometime after that... ...more
Karen Beculhimer
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant and raw.
Adam Stone
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You first see The Gold Cell through binoculars and press clippings. On the longest day of the year, a man is talked down from the roof of a building by concerned police officers. A woman confronts her own racism on a New York city subway. Paramedics save an abandoned baby. A man has a conjoined twin. A young girl survives rape but her friend does not. The stories are told as facts. No need for melodrama. The truth of the events is enough blood.

"Outside The Operating Room Of The Sex Change Doctor
...more
Pascale
Aug 07, 2012 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
...more
Kirk Stewart
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I think this is widely considered to be one of Sharon Olds' best poetry collections, but I wonder if that is in part because it seems to lend itself much more to academic analysis than some of her other collections. Even her book previous to The Gold Cell, "The Dead and The Living," seemed much more open and personal without ever seeming pedestrian. The Gold Cell, at times, is considerably more explicit and personal, particularly as she writes about sex and intimacy, but at the same time it seem ...more
Zoe
Apr 17, 2013 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"
...more
Annie
Jul 09, 2013 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
Paula
Aug 07, 2008 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
...more
Rachelle Jones
Oct 29, 2014 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
...more
W.B.
Jan 20, 2008 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
Clong
Feb 09, 2014 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
Bethany
Nov 14, 2011 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
Jasmine
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
...more
Kelsey Fitzpatrick
Feb 06, 2011 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
Justin
Jul 13, 2012 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
E
Jun 01, 2008 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
Danah
May 11, 2012 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
...more
Bryan Brunati
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Vulgar, brutal, disturbing, and harrowing images are words I would use to describe Sharon Olds collection of poems "The Gold Cell." And yet I found it to be incredible. Every Poem is injected with real situations and emotions. While some of the subject matters are not pretty the way that Olds showcases it is brilliant. As a reader I have to appreciate the no holds barred approach that Olds displays as it is so difficult to find in poetry nowadays. Sometimes the “no fear’ approach makes for the b ...more
Ned Ryerson
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
I guess I'm on a poetry kick. I couldn't really decide how to rate this book because half of the poems are brilliant and half of them kinda suck. So I gave it 4 stars based on the really good ones. There are two specific poems that really stick out in my mind. One is about a young love that dies (literally) and the other is about her kids. Now that I am a mother the kids ones really affect me. I get it now.
Niya
Jun 13, 2015 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.
Jerome K
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Wow. What can I say? Sharon Olds is the headmistress. Direct, intimate, personal, honest. She's one of my favourite American poets. She's kind of mellowed out over the years and The Gold Cell sees her poetry maturing into parenthood, with all its concerns, but what's great is that she doesn't push it away though she eyes it warily. And, really, how can you beat a poem like The Pope's Penis? LOL.
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.
Hannah
Feb 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As mandatory reading for Freshman Wrting in school, I was highly suspicious of this book, not really liking poetry in general, however the way Sharon Olds writes can really get under my skin (in a good way) and in this collection in particular, she writes a haunting series about a boyfriend she had as an undergrad at Harvard that has always stuck with me.
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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
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