Sharon Olds, Headliner for the Next Mass Poetry Festival

Sharon Olds, one of the major headliners for the May 3 through 5 Massachusetts Poetry Festival this coming year, is the author of eight books of poetry and has won honors for her writing since her first collection, Satan Says,  was awarded the San Francisco Poetry Center Award.  She has also won a National Endowment for the Arts grant; a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship; the Lamont Poetry Selection and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for The Dead and the Living(1983).

May 3 – 5, in Salem, Massachusetts

Save the dates and see and hear Olds for yourself in Salem, MA next May.

Her latest book is Stag’s Leap, poems about the breakup of her marriage. In an article on the NPR site, Tess Taylor says of the collection,

“What haunted me after I put this book down was the way it captures the strangeness of enduring loss over time — the way it makes a sort of prolonged sculpture out of the oddness of parting. How is it that two lives that felt joined can become so separate? Or that one person, once so deeply known, can become a stranger?”

photo by Catherine Mauger

Her other books of poetry are Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002 (2004), Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), The Wellspring (1995), The Father (1992), and The Gold Cell(1987).

Michael Ondaatje says her work is “pure fire in the hands,” and David Leavitt in the Voice Literary Supplement describes her work as “remarkable for its candor, its eroticism, and its power to move.”

Olds, who was born in San Francisco and studied at Stanford University and Columbia University, teaches graduate poetry workshops at New York University as well as the writing workshop she helped found at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely disabled.  With sensuality, humor, sprung rhythm, and stunning imagery, she expresses truths about domestic and political violence, sexuality, family relationships, love, and the body.  Often compared to “confessional” poets, she has been much praised for the courage, emotional power, and extraordinary physicality of her work.  A reviewer for The New York Times hailed her poetry for its vision: “Like Whitman, Ms. Olds sings the body in celebration of a power stronger than political oppression.”

She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science. One Secret Thing (2008) was a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize.

Olds is but one of the stars at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival next May. Stay tuned to this site for news on the others.