I discovered her poetry in one of my poem-a-day emails, but had never heard of her before. According to biography on the Poetry Foundation, she has won “the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. Olds is known for writing intensely personal, emotionally scathing poetry which graphically depicts family life as well as global political events.” The first poem, Pine Tree Ode, “a photo shoot becomes the occasion for a deeper encounter with the natural world.”
“Pine Tree Ode”
by Sharon Olds, 2016
I was sitting on the top stones of a wall—can you
get even closer to the tree, he said, so I went
inches from the trunk of the tallest of the ones
we’d been standing among like small children
among the legs of the grown-ups.
Now, the side of my face was almost
against the bark, intimate,
I could see where its growing had pulled its surface
open, into wooden lozenges, like
stretch marks, I could not feel it breathe
but I felt it alive beside me, a huge
ant running down, and stopping, and turning
its feelers, in the air, between us, and then
walking so fast it seemed to be pouring back
up. Then I looked, up, along
the branchless stem, into the canopy,
to the needles fanning out in bunches
eating the sun. And the length of it seemed like
bravery, like strong will,
a single, whole, note, like a tenor’s
cry, sustained, as if a tree were
a spurt from the earth, a heart’s gush.
And the ants flowed from ground to sky,
sky to ground. I don’t know where the ants
had been, or their ancestors had been, the noon
the tornado came through, wall of water
a hundred and thirty miles an hour,
solid ferocious grey static.
The tree stood. And now I sat up straight
beside it, feeling my way back
through species, and species, toward the pine, and toward
the ones we both descended from, the
fern, the green cell—the sun,
the star-stuff we are made of.
The second one, After Making Love in Winter, from May 1987, is about the emotional changes a mature woman goes through after a sexual encounter. To see more on the analysis, check out this article.