Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Strike Sparks by Sharon Olds



I recently re-discovered Sharon Olds. I had read some of her work in a poetry class at BYU-Idaho and then promptly forgot about her. It was my Poetry class this last fall that reminded me of her. She really is wonderful.

I just finished Strike Sparks - one of her collections of selected poetry and I must say it was good stuff... for the most part. Some of the poems seemed to be repetitive. The same ideas over and over. But then some were just awe inspiring, beautiful, poignant, powerful. This is one of my favorite from the collection.

The Language of the Brag
Sharon Olds

I have wanted excellence in the knife-throw,
I have wanted to use my exceptionally strong and accurate arms
and my straight posture and quick electric muscles
to achieve something at the centre of a crowd,
the blade piercing the bark deep,
the haft slowly and heavily vibrating like the cock.

I have wanted some epic use for my excellent body,
some heroism, some American achievement
beyond the ordinary for my extraordinary self,
magnetic and tensile, I have stood by the sandlot
and watched the boys play.

I have wanted courage, I have thought about fire
and the crossing of waterfalls, I have dragged around

my belly big with cowardice and safely,
my stool black with iron pills,
my huge breasts oozing mucus,
my legs swelling, my hands swelling,
my face swelling and darkening, my hair
falling out, my inner sex
stabbed again and again with terrible pain like a knife.
I have lain down.

I have lain down and sweated and shaken
and passed blood and feces and water and
slowly alone in the centre of a circle I have
passed the new person out
and they have lifted the new person free of the act
and wiped the new person free of that
language of blood like praise all over the body.

I have done what you wanted to do, Walt Whitman,
Allen Ginsberg, I have done this thing,

I and the other women this exceptional
act with the exceptional heroic body,
this giving birth, this glistening verb,
and I am putting my proud American boast
right here with the others.

I love that third to last stanza. "I have lain down and sweated and shaken/and passed blood and feces and water and/slowly alone in the centre of a circle I have/passed the new person out/and they have lifted the new person free of the act/and wiped the new person free of that/language of blood like praise all over the body./" Such a wonderful way of describing child birth.

2 comments:

jejacobson said...

This is a powerful poem. Is this the same one that Joe read in class or was it another? Because she references Whitman's idea of birthing, what if the image of childbirth is writing or a poem or something else, rather than an actual labor?

S_Allen said...

I actually think Joe read "The Promise" during the last night of our poetry class.