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Stag's Leap: Poems

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,877 ratings  ·  375 reviews
In this wise and intimate new book, Sharon Olds tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom.

As she carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending, Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love’s sight; the surprising physical bond that
Kindle Edition, 114 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Knopf
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Betsy Oh yes. Have you seen a stag leap? Graceful and powerful.
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Jon Corelis
Apr 26, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The summit of contemporary verse, unfortunately

Contemporary American poetry arose a half century ago out of the confluence of a number of social and literary trends. The first was the rise of the confessional school of poets, associated especially with Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and John Berryman: poets who attempted to make poems out of their lives, frankly using their most intimate real life experiences as subject matter. At the same time, poetry rather suddenly went from being some
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wax-poetic
After 30 years of marriage, Sharon Olds's husband announced he had fallen in love with someone else, and he didn't want to be married anymore. Well, at least not to her.

And Sharon was not only still in love with her husband; she didn't see it coming at all. And, man oh man, was she enamored with this man.

People, I love my husband, but this woman was either obsessed with her spouse or she has some supernatural capacity to love that has eluded me, because even after 30 year
I started this over the summer, but it was run over by the unlicensed drivers of other books. Somehow, though, it nosed its way to a spot where I could see it. You know, on those messy pile of books I have on the shelf in front of the already-crammed bookshelves.

During the summer, I recall being a bit annoyed with this collection despite Olds' reputation. I have another collection of hers that I liked much more. The trouble with Stag's Leap? Every stinking poem--yes, even the good ones--i
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
An entire book of poems about a divorce after thirty years of marriage examines love and loss, age and youth, the body, what it is to be together and to be alone, and successfully capturing the most beautiful, subtle moments of realization. I've never seen the subject of marriage examined with such quiet honesty. It reminded me of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters, about Plath--though this is nowhere near as tragic, and Anne Carson's The Beauty of the Husband, especially in the descriptions of the hu ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a poet, and I admit that there were some poems here that were hard to understand. But I felt the Sharon Olds' pain and grief. And that's what matters to me: that the poet was able to channel her emotions to me, the reader. That she was able to relate to me the ruthless beauty of what she was going through.
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of Sharon Olds’ poetry collection detailing her painful, unwanted divorce is the perfect metaphor, and yet that wasn’t clear to me until I read the note in the book. Stags Leap is the favorite wine of Olds and her former husband. By adding the apostrophe, Olds gives us an incredible metaphor for a man leaving his wife. She was able to use the official logo from the winery, that of a single stag leaping, perhaps throwing himself, off a cliff.
Then the drawing on the label of our favori
Laura Leaney
My middling rating is for the collection as a whole, while individual poems I would rank more highly if I could. The series of poems were written during and after the poet's husband divorced her for another woman after thirty or so years of marriage. Oh, her! They are deeply personal, confessional in style, and sometimes embarrassing to read (for me). There was something about reading them that felt too much like looking through another woman's bedside drawer. The repetition of the theme - the loss ...more
David Schaafsma
Read Satan Says, her 1980 first book, as I read this latest, 2012, effort, and the first is edgier, a little scary and disturbing and thus, for me, exciting. Rage and tenderness, but sharp language for both, always surprising. We know this is confessional poetry of a certain kind. I recall reading her memoirish account of her nursing her (incestuous, and that's key) father to his death. Complicated. Tenderness and rage in surprising moments. This is not poetry to lull you to sleep, lyrical poetr ...more
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Can you imagine the farthest limit to loving a person? Do we really believe love can be boundless?

Sharon Olds goes down the rabbit hole, literally. I'm intimidated by how bright the entrance sign is and terrified of the long dark road back.

Love is fucking insane. It's Bjork singing her state of emergency yes, but it's also Sharon Olds as daring as Plath O silk, O slub, O cocoon stolen

let those who can save themselves same themselves. (i.e. not for the faint of heart)
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
absolutely need a sedative after this read
Yair Ben-Zvi
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A transcendent collection, truly. I read this as part of a poetry class curriculum and was taken aback by how truly and utterly absorbed I became with each subsequent poem.

For those who don't know, I'm an aspiring writer, but of prose not poetry. I've read (or have "or been exposed to") a selection of some of the greats such as Eliot, Dickenson, Dante and have loved most of them (Dante in particular). But in reading those works I always felt like an interloper, an almost tolerated vi
Elizabeth Trundle
I bought Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds last year because her face flickered by on my facebook news feed and I liked her face. I remembered I had a boyfriend in college who went around with books by Sharon Olds and Jorie Graham. Which is pretty interesting now that I think of it, but at the time I thought all twenty-year old men could relate to the poetry of older women with daddy issues.

Stag’s Leap is a book of poems about a divorce. But not just any divorce. The worst kind of divorce.
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm kind of stunned that this won a Pulitzer Prize. It is described as "unflinching." Sometimes I wonder if there are a few things in this world that, when we look at them, we wouldn't be better off flinching.

I first learned about Sharon Olds in my Contemporary Poetry class, which as a sophomore English major was one of my first deep -- I mean, really deep -- dives into literature, literary pretense, and all that separates them. That's the class where I learned about all the modern biggies, you
Kiri Stewart
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
My favorite collections of poems are ones whose content is full of emptiness, loss, longing for departed intimacy and wistful memories of sex and the perfection of physical love; sparks / fire / consuming / the end, death at each conclusion, a life fully and perfectly lived in a few moments of love.

The acuity of separation and bereavement in this book for a dissolved and disbanded marriage is taut and pulls hard on the reader's compassion and sensitivity; this could be me, probably I
Jeannie B.
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Sharon Olds has given the world a rare gift in this book. If you buy one poetry collection this year, make this your choice.

Sharon Olds manages to take her most deeply personal moments, her private pain, and her triumphant re-definition of self and render them as universal touchstones. She speaks to the deeply held emotions we all share and pulls us into her journey. Every poem in this collection has its "A-ha!" moment, where we long to reach out a hand and say, "Yes, I know EXA
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, pulitzer
Gentle, gut-wrenching divorce poems, written with the lucid grief that Sharon Olds seems to so effortlessly own.

“Bruise Ghazal”

Now a black-and-blue oval on my hip has turned blue-
violet as the ink-brand on the husk-fat of a prime
cut, sore as a lovebite, but too
large for a human mouth. I like it, my
flesh brooch—gold rim, envy-color
cameo within, and violet mottle
on which the door-handle that bit is a black
purple with wiggles like trembling decape/>
Aseem Kaul
May 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-new
Sharon Olds' Stag's Leap embodies the worst excesses of confessional poetry - how easily it can turn into an exercise in banal narcissism. There is an R.S. Thomas poem where he responds to a set of poems from an amateur poet saying "I understand why you wrote them / But why send them to me?". That's exactly how I feel about Stag's Leap. That Ms. Olds needed the cathartic release of these poems after her husband left her is understandable, but to inflict them on the rest of us is frankly inexcusa ...more
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, poetry
The night after a friend recommended Sharon Olds to me, I found her newest collection at a bookstore. Of its background I knew nothing and, to be honest, if I had been aware that these poems detail the dissolution of a thirty-year marriage, I might have kept my distance. It's been that kind of year. Many of these pieces do cut so close to the bone that the act of reading becomes uncomfortable, almost painful. And yet they're beautiful: Olds allows us to bear witness to her own changing emotions ...more
[3.5 The .5 is important. I don't like all of this, but I would go back to some of it.]

When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up. / Even when it's I who am escaped from / I am half on the side of the leaver.

Yes. I have always thought similar.
But these words aren't quite my idea of poetic, not of award-worthy poetic, of a work so highly praised I keep hearing about it though I shut out most news. But this must be what is great poetry, today.
I felt about the whole book much as I felt about/>
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Today is my 53rd birthday. On my birthday I try to enjoy some of the great pleasures of my life. I like to read from the Iliad and did so. I like to read an e e cummings poem so I recited one I have memorized. One I read first in 7th grade, which must have been 1973.

I decided not to take jog: a ran very few times this past year. I fractured my shoulder over Labor Day and that put off my exercising for months, or at least I let it put it off.

I enjoy sipping good teas so dr
Feb 12, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the author details the tremendous difficulty she experienced in moving on with her life after the end of her 32-year marriage. She notes several times the feeling that she hardly knew him, even after all the time they spent together.

Overall, I found the poetry dull: for me, all the minute details she used to describe her feelings overly drew out the message, introducing boredom into my experience rather than heightening the emotions.

It reminded me of a Hollywood movie where somet
M Hunt
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
This Pulitzer-winning collection of poems is like 65 Songs About Joe - for grownups. It's all about pain, and its 'Joe' is Sharon Olds' ex-husband, who left her for another woman after 30 years of marriage. Olds identifies moments and gestures that built her life over 30 years, then redefines them with the realization that, "the touch I had from you became not the touch of the long view, but like the tolerant willingness of one who is passing through."

The imagery is beautiful. Each p
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful poetry about the end of a long marriage. Tender, wistful, bitter and confused - it is difficult to process and often hard to continue. Clearly, she did not want her marriage to end and doesn't seem to understand why it did. This is not to say that she was ugly or unaccepting - just that the bitter and the sweet blend together - but even in her niceness and civility to she makes it clear that she thinks her husband was small. A moving look at the end of a marriage.
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Stag’s Leap won the prestigious Eliot Prize and, at least for this reader, was more of a return to the power and vibrancy of Olds’s earlier work.

The collection begins with a couple of take your breath away poems, “While He Told Me” and “Unspeakable,” which capture some naked truths with nuance and depth. In the first the title is explicit while the lines of the poem do their best to look away or to carry on as if. “While he told me, I looked from small thing / to small thing, in our room
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sharon Olds' career has been an amazing trajectory. Her first book of poems, Satan Says, was all raw talent. Then she fell into the uncovered memories of childhood abuse fad of the time. In one poem, she compared her parents' abuse of her to the Shah of Iran torturing political prisoners. These poems were affecting all right, but they also weren't fair. Olds' marriage and especially the birth of her daughter and son provided an anchor for her, and an outlet for remarkable poetry. This poetry was ...more
James Murphy
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think one reason I like the poetry of Sharon Olds so much is that it's personal without being confessional. A Sharon Olds poem lets you in on Sharon Olds in a way that makes you feel confided in, included. In previous volumes she's written about her children, her parents, past loves, and her own marriage. That she often writes erotically also adds to my enthusiasm. Here, in Stag's Leap, she continues all that. It's a volume about the end of her marriage, about her husband leaving her for anoth ...more
An intriguing look at divorce after a long marriage, some of these are without a doubt 5-star poems. But too many pieces here feel detached, disinterested, as if the author were a journalist ordered to stay objective. I'd like to have read more passionate poems mixed in, as well. The overall effect I got after reading this was that the poet never seemed to know her husband very well, and gave up attempting to "crack" him fairly early into the marriage, so that by the time he left, she is clearly ...more
Mark Robison
I loved the premise of this book of poetry: Olds analyzes the fallout from her husband of 30 years leaving her by dissecting such scenes as him first telling her to meet him a few years afterward when he’s remarried. It’s certainly painful in parts but Olds sabotages her own poems by throwing in too many big words that ruin their flow and she often goes off on tangents that could only be praised in a writers workshop. I'll just pick a random page to give a feel for her style: “But I did not tend ...more
Jan Priddy
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was not certain I could read an entire book of poems about the dissolution of a 30-year marriage, but again and again Sharon Olds found something news and marvelous to say.

Though her husband was the one who left and it is clear he was unfaithful during the marriage, this is more about Olds looking into her own life, asking what she missed and how she failed to keep her relationship as strong as she assumed it was. Did she speak too much, was her writing of their relationship a burden or betra
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Oh my – I’ve read this collection in a single sitting, swallowed it down in one gulp. In the past people have offered me poems by Sharon Olds and I’ve joined in with the discussions of excellent poems, like Monarchs but without ever really ‘feeling’ the poems. All that changed last night with her reading of two poems from Stag’s Leap at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the T.S.Eliot 2012 Prize reading. Now I understand.
These poems matter and have meaning to anyone who has loved and lost
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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.<
“I did not know him, I knew my idea
of him.”
“I did not deceive him, he did not deceive me,
I did not leave him, he did not leave me,
I freed him, he freed me.”
More quotes…