Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942. She has said that her literal-minded approach to the world surfaced when, at the age of two, she tried to eat a book of ration stamps, having been told that they were to be the family’s source of food during the war.
The family lived near a school for the blind, and Olds sang in an Episcopal church choir with some of the blind girls, an experience that became the subject for a later poem, “The Indispensability of the Eyes,” in which she recalls her fear of the blind eyes and the unearthly things they saw. She also recalls that, as a child at Girl Scout camp, she began to recite her homemade verses aloud, hidden behind a tree. During that time, she also began to sense a relationship between her physical self and the earth, a perception that appears in her poetry.
Olds grew up in a troubled household; her poems refer to her grandfather’s cruelties toward her and her sister, to her grandmother’s anger, to her father’s alcoholism, which led to her parents’ divorce, and to her abusive sister. When Olds was fifteen, she was sent to a boarding school near Boston. There, she came to love Eastern landscapes and New York City. A poem from her adulthood (“Infinite Bliss”) records her desire never to live where it does not snow.
Also during that time, Olds began to read a substantial amount of poetry and to write it as well, using conventional poetic forms for most of her early work. She has stated that it took her a long time...
(The entire section is 626 words.)