Stag's Leap

Stag's Leap

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by Sharon Olds
     
 

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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

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Overview

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 still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband’s smile to the set of his hip; the radical change in her sense of place in the world. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman. As she writes in the remarkable “Stag’s Leap,” “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.” Olds’s propulsive poetic line and the magic of her imagery are as lively as ever, and there is a new range to the music—sometimes headlong, sometimes contemplative and deep. Her unsparing approach to both pain and love makes this one of the finest, most powerful books of poetry she has yet given us.




From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Known for her unadorned, emotionally direct, sometimes sexually explicit free verse, Olds has amassed a large and loyal following over 30-odd years and 10 books. In her new collection every poem speaks to the collapse of a 30-year marriage, precipitated by the ex-husband’s affair. Hence the memorable title: “The drawing on the label of our favorite red wine/ looks like my husband, casting himself off a/ cliff in his fervor to get free of me.” Olds begins as the marriage is ending: “I want to ask my/ almost-no-longer husband what it’s like to not/ love, but he doesn’t not want to talk about it.” Years later, he is a memory: Olds can “watch my idea of him pull away/ and stay, and pull away,” like a kite. In between there are violently mixed feelings, erotic memories, loneliness, anger, and resolve in a book that takes its arc from the divorce, but its organization from the seasons, moving from winter to spring to “years later,” and frequently looking back: “Maybe I’m half over who he/ was, but not who I thought he was, and not/ over the wound, sudden deathblow/ as if out of nowhere.” (Sept.)
Library Journal
No contemporary poet writes better about love and passion than Olds. In her 12th collection (following One Secret Thing), she documents the unraveling of her marriage, offering poems that are careful dissections without being maudlin. Here, for instance, is how she defines love after divorce: "when I thought/ we were joined not for breath's time,/ but for the long continuance,/ the hard sweets of femur and stone." Whether she's talking about the last time she and her husband slept together, finding a photo of her husband's lover in the dryer, or how she took up newspaper reading in his honor, these poems are intense, mourning as much as recording the break. Occasionally, Olds drops a clunky line or, as in the poem "The Red Sea," incorporates a double list of vocabulary words. But on the whole the collection is stunning and reads almost like a poetic novel until you reach the poem where Old announces, "my old/ love for him, like a songbird's rib cage picked clean." VERDICT Beautiful, well-crafted poems that map the end of a marriage; the poet's talent and wisdom are on display in poems that arrow to the heart over a route that is word- and image-rich.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307959911
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/04/2012
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
1,208,427
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Last Hour

Suddenly, the last hour before he took me to the airport, he stood up,
bumping the table, and took a step toward me, and like a figure in an early science fiction movie he leaned forward and down, and opened an arm,
knocking my breast, and he tried to take some hold of me, I stood and we stumbled,
and then we stood, around our core, his hoarse cry of awe, at the center,
 at the end, of our life. Quickly, then,
the worst was over, I could comfort him,
holding his heart in place from the back and smoothing it from the front, his own life continuing, and what had bound him, around his heart—and bound him to me—now lying on and around us,
 sea-water, rust, light, shards,
the little eternal curls of eros beaten out straight.

Stag’s Leap

Then the drawing on the label of our favorite red wine looks like my husband, casting himself off a cliff in his fervor to get free of me.
His fur is rough and cozy, his face placid, tranced, ruminant,
the bough of each furculum reaches back to his haunches, each tine of it grows straight up and branches, like a model of his brain, archaic,
unwieldy. He bears its bony tray level as he soars from the precipice edge,
dreamy. 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. It’s so quiet,
and empty, when he’s left. I feel like a landscape,
a ground without a figure. Sauve
qui peut—let those who can save themselves save themselves. Once I saw a drypoint of someone tiny being crucified on a fallow deer’s antlers. I feel like his victim,
and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he throws himself off. Oh my mate. I was vain of his faithfulness, as if it was a compliment, rather than a state of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he feel he had to walk around carrying my books on his head like a stack of posture volumes, or the rack of horns hung where a hunter washes the venison down with the sauvignon? Oh leap,
leap! Careful of the rocks! Does the old vow have to wish him happiness in his new life, even sexual joy? I fear so, at first, when I still can’t tell us apart. Below his shaggy belly, in the distance, lie the even dots of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans.

My Son’s Father’s Smile

In my sleep, our son, as a child, said,
of his father, he smiled me—as if into existence, into the family built around the young lives which had come from the charged bouquets, the dense oasis. That smile,
those years, well what can a body say, I have been in the absolute present of a fragrant ignorance. And to live in those rooms,
where one of his smiles might emerge, like something almost from another place,
another time, another set of creatures, was to feel blessed, and to be held in mysteriousness, and a little in mourning. The thinness of his lips gave it a simplicity, like a child’s drawing of a smile—a footbridge, turned over on its back, or seen under itself, in water—and the archer’s bow gave it a curved unerring symmetry, a shot to the heart. I look back on that un-
clouded face yet built of cloud,
and that waning crescent moon, that look of deep, almost sad, contentment, and know myself lucky, that I had out the whole night of a half-life in that archaic hammock, in a sky whose darkness is fading, that first dream, from which I am now waking.

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Meet the Author

Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. Her first book, Satan Says (1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Her second, The Dead and the Living, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Father was short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize in England, and The Unswept Room was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helped to found the NYU workshop program for residents of Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. She lives in New Hampshire and in New York City.

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Stag's Leap: Poems 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
dwayneandpeggy 7 months ago
Master of confession
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1that was really wierd 2 she has emotions, ok!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Xav alive
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why did you change? You know bery well that Fang is one of my closest friends. And you just sit there and laugh? What happened to you? *he shakes his head and leaves*