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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

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
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679765608
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1996
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
1,144,732
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.39(h) x 0.35(d)

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.

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.

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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.