John Freeman in Literary Hub:
Sharon Olds can still remember how furious editors became when she started submitting her poems, 40 years ago. “They came back often with very angry notes,” the 74-year-old poet says, sitting in her small, light-filled apartment overlooking NYU’s campus in Greenwich Village. We’re speaking on a warm afternoon last summer, before the news blossomed into an ongoing outrage. This memory of hers stirs up bewilderment like a warning. For two hours, however, the future president’s name doesn’t pass either of our lips. Wearing sweats and a hand-me-down t-shirt, her face sculpted by curiosity, Olds is illuminated, patient and quick to praise: a benevolent siren on an island as a storm approaches in the distance. “They used to say, ‘Why don’t you try the Ladies Home Journal?’ she continues, her face now crinkling into a frown. ‘We are a literary magazine.’ Very snooty, very put-me-down… women, you know… poems about children?”
A season later, even if bragging about grabbing women by the genitals did not derail a presidential campaign, Olds’ poems about children and desire, about so-called women’s issues—family, and how the complications of loving what can nearly break you—continue to make her one of Americas’s most beloved poets. Her books sell tens of thousands of copies, her poems were viral before there was an internet. They were and still are taped to the inside of dorm rooms, copied down into notebooks, covered in songs, even tattooed onto readers’ bodies. (“Do what you are going to do, / and I will tell about it” is a popular line). They also render novelists speechless. I once stood in a room of Pulitzer-, Booker- and Nobel Prize-winning writers—“Is that Sharon Olds?” was the question I kept hearing the novelists under 50 asking of the woman with long grey hippy hair tied up in pigtails.