APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH: Sharon Olds’ ‘Stag Leap’ Wins Pulitzer Prize

  • By David M. Kinchen, with information from Knopf 
APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH:   Sharon Olds' 'Stag Leap' Wins Pulitzer Prize

Today, we are proud to share work by our poet Sharon Olds, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection “Stag’s Leap”. This intimate story of divorce, told in poems, was not completed by Olds until more than a decade after the events that shaped its contents. The “stag” of the title is—yes—the stag from the label on the couple’s favorite wine, as well as a metaphor for the husband, leaping off a precipice and bounding away. Summoning up this image causes Olds to admit, “Even when it’s I who am escaped from,/ I am half on the side of the leaver.” While the book begins with an unsparing chronology of the pain, loss, and even passion involved in the breakup of a thirty-year marriage, in a section entitled “January-December,” it ends with a group of poems called “Years Later,” by which point the fresh pain has become something quite different. This winter, “Stag’s Leap” also received the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry in England—making Olds the first woman ever to receive this honor.

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The Last Hour

Suddenly, the last hour

before he took me to the airport, he stood up,

bumping the table, and took a step

toward me, and like a figure in an early

science fiction movie he leaned

forward and down, and opened an arm,

knocking my breast, and he tried to take some

hold of me, I stood and we stumbled,

and then we stood, around our core, his

hoarse cry of awe, at the center,

at the end, of our life. Quickly, then,

the worst was over, I could comfort him,

holding his heart in place from the back

and smoothing it from the front, his own

life continuing, and what had

bound him, around his heart—and bound him

to me—now lying on and around us,

sea-water, rust, light, shards,

the little eternal curls of eros

beaten out straight.


More on this poem and author:

Excerpted from STAG’S LEAP, © 2012 by Sharon Olds. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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