The Wellspring: Poems [NOOK Book]


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, ...
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The Wellspring: Poems

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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 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.
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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

  • ISBN-13: 9780307561084
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/5/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 1,090,576
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Sharon Olds was born in 1942, in San Francisco, and was educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. Her poetry has won both the Lamont Poetry Selection and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches poetry workshops in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and in the NYU workshop program at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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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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Table of Contents

Visiting My Mother's College 3
My Parents' Wedding Night, 1937 4
The Planned Child 5
Japanese-American Farmhouse, California, 1942 6
Earliest Memory 7
My First Weeks 8
For My Mother 10
The Lisp 11
Christian Child 12
Killing My Sister's Fish 15
The Swimming Race 16
Parents' Day 17
Dirty Memories 18
Mrs. Krikorian 20
Necking 25
First 27
Adolescence 29
Early Images of Heaven 30
Celibacy at Twenty 31
The Source 33
Making Love 35
I Love It When 36
The Dragons 37
After Making Love in Winter 38
May 1968 39
First Birth 43
Her First Week 44
Bathing the New Born 45
History of Medicine 46
Milk-Bubble Ruins 48
Socks 49
A Mother at the End of June 50
Twelve Years Old 51
The Hand 52
Good Will 54
Lament 55
Poem to Our Son After a High Fever 56
Prayer During That Time 58
Forty-One, Alone, No Gerbil 59
The Cast 60
The Siblings 61
Love's Eyesight 62
The Transformed Boy 63
The Last Birthday at Home 64
Solo 65
Physics 66
My Son the Man 67
First Formal 68
The Ordeal 69
The Lady Bug 70
The Bonding 72
High School Senior 73
The Pediatrician Retires 74
This Hour 79
His Father's Cadaver 81
West 83
Lifelong 84
Full Summer 85
Last Night 86
Am and Am Not 87
True Love 88
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2012

    One for the Heart

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2006


    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2000

    The apparently autobiographical

    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.

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