Book Review

Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

Photo on 17-03-2013 at 13.20(Not a flattering picture…)

Poetry. Contemporary poetry. Not something I grapple with regularly/have ever consciously grappled with before.

This one won the 2012 TS Eliot prize, which is (to the best of my knowledge) for poetry what the Booker is for novels. So if I don’t like it, I’m at fault, right?

It’s a cycle of poems about a divorce – not the disintegration of a relationship. It begins with the poet (it is autobiographical) being told by her husband that he wants to leave. Which comes, to her, with relatively little expectation. Throughout the rest of the book she moves around the people, the places and the moments of their marriage, evaluating its successes and its failings and tinging many of her happy memories with the sad fear that her husband had long been wishing to move on.

Later, she begins to worry that maybe it was her poetry, her previous public discussion of their connection in verse, that led to the disintegration. He is a doctor and, she acknowledges, he would not discuss her with his patients. Yet she has – and still is with this volume – discussed/s him freely and openly with her work, her customers, her readers.

It feels honest, and feels open, and feels like a true depiction of a dramatic and unexpected life change. The bitterness she feels towards widows her own age, too, recurs – the idea that if her husband had died and she could no longer love him, she could accept that more easily than what she instead has to accept:  That she may no longer love her husband because he doesn’t want her to. Which is a very sad idea.

Writing about, thinking about, the book has, to be honest, raised my opinion of it, as I explore its themes further. Which, obviously, one is expected to do with poetry. Or with any good book… But, tbh, reading it, I didn’t feel much of an immediate connection, and I had really hoped to.

I can see the skill, I can appreciate the beauty and I love the idea of the honesty of the work… But, alas, it just didn’t click with me. Whatever that means.

3 comments on “Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

  1. Completely agree with your comments about Stag’s Leap. I admire it but can’t connect with it.


  2. Pingback: The Observances by Kate Miller – Triumph of the Now

  3. Pingback: POETRY MONTH: poetry reviews from the vaults – Triumph Of The Now

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