“I have an old-fashioned vision of the word confession. I believe that a confession is a telling, publicly or privately, of a wrong that one has done, which one regrets. And the confession is a way of trying to get to the other side and change one’s nature... So I have written two or three confessional poems. I would use the phrase 'apparently' personal poetry for the kind of poetry that I think people are referring to as "confessional." Apparently personal because how do we really know? We don’t.”
— Sharon Olds
Poet Sharon Olds was born in 1942 in San Francisco and raised in Berkeley, California. She attended college at Stanford and Columbia, her primary focus always being poetry. Throughout college she learned how to write poetry according to others’ standards, and once she graduated from Columbia she vowed to give up all of that she previously learned about the art and began to write poetry how she wanted— regardless if it were good or bad.
Her first book of poetry, “Satan Says,” was published in 1980 and was very well received. The majority of the poems focus on use of explicit images to express the need to reveal abusive relationships, and exploring the necessity to break free of silences that are socially imposed. Olds looked to write about subjects that had previously not been explored enough through the art.
Her second book of poetry, “The Dead and the Living,” came out in 1983 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In this collection of poetry she wrote about public events such as the Tulsa Race Riot and Marilyn Monroe’s death. The collections that followed include “The Gold Cell,” “The Father,” and “The Wellspring.” All of her books have won awards. “The Father” was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in England. Most of her poetry tends to focuse mainly on inner rage and grief— especially when it comes to family relations— as well as raw and powerful sexual experiences.
Olds became a founding chair of the Writing Program at Goldwater Hospital for the physically disabled, and she is currently an associate professor at New York University and chair of the college’s Creative Writing Program. She conducts writing workshops quite often all across the country.
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