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Poet Sharon Olds

Poet Sharon Olds

In anticipation of REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN., Soho Rep. asked playwright Alice Birch about art pieces that inspired her play. Alice came back to us with a formidable list of plays, photography, feminist essays, and poetry that have all been an influence on this piece of writing.

In a series we are calling “Recipes for REVOLT”, we will be delving a bit deeper into these art pieces to give you a sense of where this extraordinary play sprung.

The Poetry Foundation writes that “Sharon Olds is known for writing intensely personal, emotionally scathing poetry which graphically depicts family life as well as global political events.” An example of her work is below. Do you see the relationship between Olds and Birch’s writing?

To See My Mother by Sharon Olds

It was like witnessing the earth being formed,
to see my mother die, like seeing
the dry lands be separated
from the oceans, and all the mists bear up
on one side, and all the solids
be borne down, on the other, until
the body was all there, all bronze and
petrified redwood opal, and the soul all
gone. If she hadn’t looked so exalted, so
beast-exalted and refreshed and suddenly
hopeful, more than hopeful—beyond
hope, relieved—if she had not been suffering so
much, since I had met her, I do not
know how I would have stood it, without
fighting someone, though no one was there
to fight, death was not there except
as her, my task was to hold her tiny
crown in one cupped hand, and her near
birdbone shoulder. Lakes, clouds,
nests. Winds, stems, tongues.
Embryo, zygote, blastocele, atom,
my mother’s dying was like an end
of life on earth, some end of water
and moisture salt and sweet, and vapor,
till only that still, ocher moon
shone, in the room, mouth open, no song.

 

Click here for a fascinating interview with Sharon Olds published by Vogue magazine in the September 2012 issue.

 

Photographed by Marcus Mam, Vogue magazine, September 2012

Photographed by Marcus Mam, Vogue magazine, September 2012

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