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Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  953 ratings  ·  56 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
Kindle Edition, 203 pages
Published (first published September 28th 2004)
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Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, reviewed, poetry, own
I really enjoyed this collection of poetry and poetry is something I rarely choose 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 B
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Strike Sparks contains a selection of poems from Satan Says , The Dead and the Living , The Gold Cell , The Father , The Wellspring , Blood, Tin, Straw , and The Unswept Room ...

From Satan Says (1980)...

In the sunless wooden room at noon
the mother had a talk with her daughter.
The rudeness could not go on, the meanness
to her little brother, the selfishness.
The eight-year-old sat on the bed
in the corner of the room, her irises distilled as
the last drops of something, her f
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even better than reading her work - look her up on YouTube reading them herself. Amazing.
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quarter-2
A powerful collection of poems which depicts aspects of life and includes subjects such as pain, childhood, and love. She makes a simple word seem more than just a word, like there's more to a word.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Larry Kaplun
Sep 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Daniel Chaikin
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.

Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Beautiful compilation of Olds' work. She is a master of contemporary english. I love her sense of identity and fleeting observations.
For some reason, I was particularly moved by the selections from The Father, even though I couldn't personally relate...they were just lovely for what they were.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A collection of Olds' poems that span a little over 20 years. Many favorites are here, like "I Go Back to May 1937", and it's nice to see all of these all together, where one can see the progression of a life so seamlessly.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a revelation for me. It was so good to read poems with a story, a narrative element, that were first and foremost poetry. This is what I've been working toward and fighting against in my own work. This is what I meant to be doing. I only hope I can succeed as well as Sharon Olds has.
Alex Reinhart
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
each poem became my favorite as i read it
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Lovely poetry, the wedding vow and the slug/penis poem were my faves
Jordan Donaldson
Not a poetry guy, but damn if this book didn't change my mind. Absolutely loved it.
Tom Romig
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A marvelous selection from collections over 20 plus years. Includes one of my favorite--though that's a strange word in this case--poems, the unforgettable "I Go Back to May 1937," a poem of bleak intensity. I'm going to a reading by Sharon Olds tomorrow night at the Folger.
Melting Uncle
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished2020, poetry
For me, the most impressive aspect of Sharon olds poetry is the willingness to write frankly about subjects that are potentially too personal or embarrassing, especially sex but also parenting and death. The confessional quality means the poems are easy to understand and relate to. I could understand how the superpersonal style might be too mundane for some. But the candor and willingness to communicate is very welcoming to the reader. I like obscurity and floaty/weird poetry but this felt like ...more
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
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Roger DeBlanck
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
It is not an overstatement to rank Sharon Olds among the greatest American poets. Strike Sparks demonstrates her powerful voice and vision in pursuit of the innermost truth of her subjects. These poems, selected from her first seven collections, resonate with her trademark candor and honesty. Throughout these pieces, she offers up her personal life. She examines her own parents and childhood, she expresses her awe of parenthood, and she delves fearlessly into the emotions of love and lust. Her s ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-authors
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
Adrian Rune
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: forensics, poetry
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.
Ethan Miller
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
woah. what a book of words. From line one to line last Olds' poetry is firing on the very highest, hottest cylinders in this collection. Olds can put words to emotional states, traumas, matters of the heart and generally unspoken human experiences that I'd previously thought too abstract and complex to hang clear words on. Some of the finest lines I've ever read by an American (probably should amend this to 'human') hand.
knocked out and reeling. Still on the floor.

Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Apr 01, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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 collect

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