Born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942, Sharon Olds earned a BA at Stanford University in 1964 and a PhD at Columbia University in 1972.
Olds’s first collection of poems, Satan Says (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Her following collection, The Dead & the Living (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), was the Lamont Poetry Selection in 1983 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other collections include Balladz (Alfred A. Knopf, 2022); Arias (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019); Stag’s Leap (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize; and The Father (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992); which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
About Olds’s poetry, one reviewer for the New York Times said, “Her work has a robust sensuality, a delight in the physical that is almost Whitmanesque. She has made the minutiae of a woman’s everyday life as valid a subject for poetry as the grand abstract themes that have preoccupied other poets.”
With unfailing courage and a profound moral intelligence, with an unshakable faith in the necessity of inquiry into experience, Sharon Olds has crafted a life’s work of remarkable power. The driving rhythms and artful structures of her poems are in service of a rigorous examination of her own life, and the lives of those around her. By writing with such candor and clarity, Olds has granted younger poets—especially women—permission to speak. Her poems, in their evocation of trauma or desire, in their grief and joy and comedy, have opened new possibilities for poetry in our time. She is an American master, and a national treasure.
Olds’s numerous other honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Her poetry has been anthologized in more than one hundred collections. In 2022, she was awarded the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.
Olds held the position of New York state poet laureate from 1998 to 2000. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2006 to 2012. She currently teaches poetry workshops in New York University’s graduate creative writing program as well as a workshop at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York City.
An interview with Sharon Olds at the 2022 Miami Book Fair