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Stag's Leap
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2012
This arrived yesterday as part of my Poetry Book Society subscription. I didn't chose it, I didn't know Sharon Old's work, I am not a great reader of contemporary poetry, but I loved this from the first page. This sequence of poems about the end of her 30 year marriage is beautiful and moving. They feel so true it is frightening: like an accident you don't want to look at, but are nevertheless compelled to study just to try to understand how such a thing can be.The end of love is the saddest story in the world and I know this better from reading this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2013
This is amazing! As I read it explained exactly how I have felt over the last few years. The disintegration of my own 20 year marriage was devastating and destructive. All the nuances of pain are here, and the potential to heal. I read every word knowing totally what was meant, and yet, although the most painful of things I have had to endure, this work is incredible, in put down able and eminently readable. It is a work of power and has the abilinto aid reflection and healing.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2012
Thought provoking, often very moving. Stag's Leap is a deeply personal reflection on a life changing event. it made me realize how much I appreciate my own luck in still being married to the girl I met 40 years ago and how I could not bear to put her through the pain reflected in Sharon's experience and yet how with time, some healing of even the deepest wounds can take place. Recommended reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2013
Sharon Olds won the TS Eliot Prize last year for this collection, Stag's Leap, and the judges were apparently unanimous, something that rarely happens with literary prizes. I'm always in two minds about Sharon Olds' poetry - it's musical and muscular and beautifully constructed, but a part of me feels . . . What do I feel? Slightly embarrassed, squeamish even, about the frankness of her revelations, particularly about other people. I would never be able to expose my family like that - but perhaps that just being British! In the beginning, such frankness was very original - a woman `writing the body' in a way that had never been written before. But then it became a little boring - I sometimes wanted her to write about other things. So I approached Stag's Leap with caution, and was bowled over by it.

Stag's Leap is the label of a vineyard - the favourite wine of Sharon and her husband of thirty years. But it became the symbol of her husband's leap for freedom when he left her for another woman - a medical colleague. In the sequence of poems that tells the story of the breakdown of her marriage and its aftermath, she freely admits the part her own revelatory poetry had played in it.

Her husband was a very quiet, private man, and she was the opposite, and she had never realised the impact her very frank and uninhibited poetry was having on him. In revealing the details of her own sex life, she had also revealed his.

One of her poems describes how her husband would stand up whenever there was a call for `a doctor in the house', and she would be proud. But she realises now that `when words were called for, and I stood' it was very different for him. Now when the call comes he and his new wife can stand up together - partners in everything.

During the break-up, Sharon Olds is astonished by the courtesy with which they treat each other, the habit of physical intimacy that still exists in those last days.

. . . `He shows no anger,

I show no anger but in flashes of humour,

all is courtesy and horror.'

She goes through all the phases of relationship grief - bewilderment, anger, self-blame, the pain of loss, numbness, to acceptance. Being able to see things from his point of view is an extra pain.

. . . `did his spirit turn against the spirit which

tolled our private, wild bell

from the public roof top, I who had no other

gift to give the world but to hold what I

thought was love's mirror up to us.. .

. . . `but then one day

I woke, and feared he felt he was the human

sleeper, and I the glittering panther

holding him down, and screaming.'

Stag's Leap tells the story from the moment of discovery when Sharon finds another woman's photograph in her husband's running shorts - a woman she knows. The night he tells Sharon that he is in love with the other woman and that he will `probably' leave her. The story moves through the dividing of possessions, the construction of a life alone, the realisation that what she had taken for granted was a good relationship was quite the opposite for him. `I hadn't known he could lie'.

The sequence is very moving, perhaps because of its absolute honesty and humility, but it also thrills in the way it uses language - this is a major poet in complete command of technique and language. The complex rhythms and linguistic twists in `Left-Wife Bop', `Red Sea' and `Left-Wife Goose' leave you giddy. The ending is very powerful - in `Years Later', they meet again, briefly.

. . . `And then there is the spring park,

damp as if freshly peeled, sweet

greenhouse, green cemetery with no

dead in it - except, in some shaded

woods, under some years of leaves and

rotted cones, the body of a warbler

like a whole note fallen from the sky - my old

love for him, like a songbird's rib cage picked clean.'
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The poems - well you just have to read them. They sit with you like a sleeping infant. What a superb collection. I'm not sure I feel qualified to write in detail about Sharon Old's genius
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2013
Some beautiful poems, ideas and lines. But it gets a bit oppressive, as if she is wringing every drop of emotion from what was obviously a painful experience - and one which continues. But I passed saturation point.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2013
Sharon Olds has her fingers on the pulse of human love and loss and translates its beauty and pain into poetry of great accomplishment and sensitivity. A very worthy winner of the TS Eliot prize.
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A friend recommended Sharon Olds poetry but warned me about the subject matter i.e. heartbreak! I just read a couple at a time - I cried a lot and although it is very painful to experience her heartbreak when her husband falls in love with 'a. n. other' and relive one's own pain in past relationship breakdowns she always manages to say something profound and true about love. It is the fact that she describes the joy of love so exactly that makes the end so very painful, as in 'unspeakable'
'to stand in his thirty-year ' When he loved me, I looked
sight, and not in love's sight out at the world as if from inside'
I feel an invisibility'

Or as in' The Flurry' I tell him I will try to fall out of
love with him, but I feel I will love him
all my life'

I cannot recommend this poetry highly enough - read her and recognise your own heartbreak - it is a genuinely cathartic experience for those of us burned by love and loss .
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2012
Poems of great depth. Wonderfully portrays the anguish of a marital split interlaced with poignancy and heart throughout. A must read.
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on 19 January 2015
Another friend recommendation. Stag’s Leap is a collection of poems by the hugely talented Sharon Olds. I didn’t want to read this, as a close friend is currently experiencing similar circumstances, but I’m so glad I did. Even reading the sample on Amazon had me welling up with tears.

Olds explores the end of her thirty-year marriage with such skin-stripped truth and agonising imagery, it feels like a kind of therapy in itself. Somehow, The Arrival and Stag’s Leap touch on connected themes – how to adapt to changed circumstances, how to change and how to remain oneself.

Olds rips her heart out and lays it in a stainless steel bowl for us to observe. The process of separation and recovery is deeply, viscerally touching, and if – like me – you’re partial to walking into the sea and crying salt into salt, this cathartic experience will both empty and arm you.
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