The Wellspring: Poems

The Wellspring: Poems

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by Sharon Olds

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Sharon Olds's dazzling new collection is a sequence of poems that reaches into the very wellspring of life. The poems take us back to the womb, and from there on to childhood, to a searing sexual awakening, to the shock of childbirth, to the wonder and humor of parenthood--and, finally, to the depths of adult love.

Always bold, musical, honest, these poems…  See more details below


Sharon Olds's dazzling new collection is a sequence of poems that reaches into the very wellspring of life. The poems take us back to the womb, and from there on to childhood, to a searing sexual awakening, to the shock of childbirth, to the wonder and humor of parenthood--and, finally, to the depths of adult love.

Always bold, musical, honest, these poems plunge us into the essence of experience. This is a highly charged, beautifully organized collection from one of the finest poets writing today.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The subjects covered in Olds's (The Father) new collection will be familiar to readers, as will be her uncompromising insights and the beauty of her verse. The poems of Part I address the poet's childhood and her uneasy relationship with her parents, subjects about which she continues to display the bittersweet lyricism at which she excels: ``...sometimes I thought she could/ sense bits of herself in my body/ like dots of undissolved sugar/ in a recipe that did not quite work out.'' Part II, concerned primarily with adolescence and awakening sexuality, offers perhaps the strongest grouping as Olds explores sexuality in an ``endless... apprenticeship to the mortal.'' Least effective are the poems that follow, mainly about her children and her motherhood, where even Olds's powers of microscopic observation-of both self and other-do not always lift this material out of the mundane. The last poems celebrate love in marriage, portraying the maturing of erotic and emotional bonds over time (``love is simply our element,/ it is the summer night, we are in it.'') While one might wish to see Olds taking more chances and expanding her subject matter, she does not fail to awaken us to the depth and beauty of familiar concerns. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In this her fifth collection, award-winning Olds (What Silence Equals: Poems, LJ 1/94) surveys her life from conception to middle age with the laserlike attention to emotional and physical detail that is her hallmark. The book's first two sections focus on childhood and adolescence; the self-portrait Olds paints is of a voracious and egocentric child who thirsts for attention and is sensually attuned to all she experiences. Her recollections of her father's casual cruelties (he composed a humiliating tongue twister for his lisping daughter to recite at Sunday breakfast), though chilling, are dispassionately recounted. The second two sections are devoted to parenthood and conjugal love. Olds's poems about her children throb with love and pathos, and her paeans to an emotionally and physically satisfying marriage are among the book's most rewarding poems. In language that is taut, clear-sighted, and frank, Olds writes powerfully of life's most elemental experiences: birth, love, and death. Recommended for contemporary poetry collections.Christine Stenstrom, Brooklyn P.L.
Donna Seaman
Olds, brilliant and precise, is "the" poet of the body. She never forgets, or lets us forget, that we are creatures of flesh and blood, that there would be no mind and no feelings without the "raw mystery" of our unruly, miraculous, vulnerable, messy, and beautiful physical selves. Her newest collection, her strongest so far, takes the form of an intimate family portrait. Olds begins by imagining her parents making love for the first time. This explicitness informs the entire cycle, from poems about her own birth to snapshots of her youth and early sexual experiences, poems remarkable for their integrity, eroticism, tough humor, and unceasing wonder. Love is the wellspring, but the path to love is sex, and Olds writes, "It became the deep spring of my life, / I didn't know if it was a sickness or a gift." Olds continues with a series of strikingly original and profoundly moving poems about her children. Earthy and eloquent, Olds tells us in no uncertain terms that we really have no choice but to swoon in life's firm embrace. "I gave over to flesh like church music," Olds confesses, and we say amen.
From the Publisher
"Sharon Olds's poems are pure fire in the hands—risky, on the verge of falling, and in the end leaping up. I love the roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss."
—Michael Ondaatje

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Bathing the New Born

I love with an almost fearful love
to remember the first baths I gave him--
our second child, our first son--
I laid the little torso along
my left forearm, nape of the neck
in the crook of my elbow, hips nearly as
small as a least tern's hips
against my wrist, thigh held loosely
in the loop of thumb and forefinger,
the sign that means exactly right. I'd soap him,
the long, violet, cold feet,
the scrotum wrinkled as a waved whelk shell
so new it was flexible yet, the chest,
the hands, the clavicles, the throat, the gummy
furze of the scalp. When I got him too soapy he'd
slide in my grip like an armful of buttered
noodles, but I'd hold him not too tight,
I felt that I was good for him,
I'd tell him about his wonderful body
and the wonderful soap, and he'd look up at me,
one week old, his eyes still wide
and apprehensive. I love that time
when you croon and croon to them, you can see
the calm slowly entering them, you can
sense it in your clasping hand,
the little spine relaxing against
the muscle of your forearm, you feel the fear
leaving their bodies, he lay in the blue
oval plastic baby tub and
looked at me in wonder and began to
move his silky limbs at will in the water.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Wellspring 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Bokochan More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book for my daughter-in-law, a genuine poetry person. After just One day, she came to me with gleaming eyes, this book pressed against her chest and thanked me profusely. I believe that puts this book in the "Fabulous" section.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The only thing I can think to say about this book of poems is that they are TERRIBLE. I've never heard so many nasty words - I mean really nasty, sex words, that do not belong in decent books. I feel ashamed to have read them, and cannot recommend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A life story in poems so finely honed and perfectly detailed that one is liable to forget that Olds has repeatedly insisted that her poems are 'apparently' autobiographical. These poems echo through one another time and again (as in 'Dirty Memories' and 'Mrs. Kirkorkian'), asking us to look at the collection in its entirety as well as for each individual poem. Personally, this book is the one collection of poems I dread even _travelling_ without.