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Stag's Leap

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Stag's Leap

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In this wise and intimate new book, Sharon Olds tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom. As she carries us through the seasons when her marriage...
In this wise and intimate new book, Sharon Olds tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom. As she carries us through the seasons when her marriage...
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  • In this wise and intimate new book, Sharon Olds tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom.

    As she carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending, Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love's sight; the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband's smile to the set of his hip; the radical change in her sense of place in the world. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman. As she writes in the remarkable "Stag's Leap," "When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up. Even when it's I who am escaped from, / I am half on the side of the leaver." Olds's propulsive poetic line and the magic of her imagery are as lively as ever, and there is a new range to the music--sometimes headlong, sometimes contemplative and deep. Her unsparing approach to both pain and love makes this one of the finest, most powerful books of poetry she has yet given us.

  • From the book

    The Last HourSuddenly, 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.

    Stag's Leap

    Then the drawing on the label of our favorite red wine
    looks like my husband, casting himself off a
    cliff in his fervor to get free of me.
    His fur is rough and cozy, his face
    placid, tranced, ruminant,
    the bough of each furculum reaches back
    to his haunches, each tine of it grows straight up
    and branches, like a model of his brain, archaic,
    unwieldy. He bears its bony tray
    level as he soars from the precipice edge,
    dreamy. When anyone escapes, my heart
    leaps up. Even when it's I who am escaped from,
    I am half on the side of the leaver. It's so quiet,
    and empty, when he's left. I feel like a landscape,
    a ground without a figure. Sauve
    qui peut--let those who can save themselves
    save themselves. Once I saw a drypoint of someone
    tiny being crucified
    on a fallow deer's antlers. I feel like his victim,
    and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched
    legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he
    throws himself off. Oh my mate. I was vain of his
    faithfulness, as if it was
    a compliment, rather than a state
    of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he
    feel he had to walk around
    carrying my books on his head like a stack of
    posture volumes, or the rack of horns
    hung where a hunter washes the venison
    down with the sauvignon? Oh leap,
    leap! Careful of the rocks! Does the old
    vow have to wish him happiness
    in his new life, even sexual
    joy? I fear so, at first, when I still
    can't tell us apart. Below his shaggy
    belly, in the distance, lie the even dots
    of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots
    clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their
    blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans.

    My Son's Father's Smile

    In my sleep, our son, as a child, said,
    of his father, he smiled me--as if into
    existence, into the family built around the
    young lives which had come from the charged
    bouquets, the dense oasis. That smile,
    those years, well what can a body say, I have
    been in the absolute present of a fragrant
    ignorance. And to live in those rooms,
    where one of his smiles might emerge, like something
    almost from another place,
    another time, another set
    of creatures, was to feel blessed, and to be
    held in mysteriousness, and a little
    in mourning. The thinness of his lips gave it
    a simplicity, like a child's drawing
    of a smile--a footbridge, turned over on its back, or seen
    under itself, in water--and the archer's
    bow gave it a curved unerring
    symmetry, a shot to the heart. I look back on that un-
    clouded face yet built of cloud,
    and that waning crescent moon, that look
    of deep, almost sad, contentment, and know myself
    lucky, that I had out the whole
    night of a...

About the Author-
  • Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. Her first book, Satan Says (1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Her second, The Dead and the Living, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Father was short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize in England, and The Unswept Room was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helped to found the NYU workshop program for residents of Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. She lives in New Hampshire and in New York City.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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