Knopf Poetry Editor Deb Garrison on Sharon Olds’ ODES
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sharon Olds, honored by the Academy of American Poets with the Wallace Stevens Award this month, is the author of this week’s Igloo Book Buzz title, ODES, published by Alfred A, Knopf on Tuesday (9/20). When asked how her eleventh book came to be, Ms. Olds says, “Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things inspired praise songs to occur to me – songs to a different set of common things!”
From Knopf Poetry Editor Deb Garrison: “It’s a great adventure to publish her because she continues to push boundaries and innovate with every book. After her Pulitzer for STAG’S LEAP, a stunning collection about the unmaking and remaking of a world that comes with a divorce, she delivers something completely other and equally stunning.
“When we hear the word ‘ode’ we think of Horace, of Keats and his Grecian urn. Sharon is working in one of the oldest poetic forms, and by the way the very simple white [book cover] jacket with black type was her idea. But the poems inside go out on a limb; they don’t shy away from difficult and mostly untraditional subjects, from body parts usually not spoken of in poetry. Take her opening, an ‘Ode to the Hymen’: ‘You were very sturdy, weren’t you, / you took your job seriously — I’d never / felt such pain — you were the hourglass lady / the magician saws in two.”’
“I think readers have come to expect this from Sharon – none of it is tame! But it’s all profound. An ‘Ode to the Penis’ or an ‘Ode of Withered Cleavage’ is not meant to shock but to help us see what we don’t normally see, the rich materials that are unsung all around us. (To the penis, she says, ‘I’m just saying / I like you – not as object but / a subject, a prime mover, a working / theory of plumbing and ecstasy.’) The variety is wonderful – ‘Hip Replacement Ode,’ ‘Pine Tree Ode,’ ‘Real Estate Ode,’ ‘Single Lady’s Ode.’ It’s an ultra-modern book of gratitude for what surrounds us, what is us.”