When Sharon Olds Came to Kutztown

5 Nov

Sharon Olds is a talented performer of poetry. At her reading in Old Main’s Georgian Room on Thursday, October 24, Ms. Olds captivated the audience with each spoken word. She made a last-minute decision to start with a poem inspired by her mother. “Where is my Lady?” left Ms. Olds visibly emotional and probably brought tears to the eyes of some audience members.

Photo provided by Kutztown University Office of University Relations.
Photo provided by Kutztown University Office of University Relations.

Ms. Olds confessed that while she read “While He Told Me” she meditated on the impulse of writers to share a life. I found this interesting, considering her reputation as a confessional poet. She writes about personal details of her life for everyone to read, and I think a lot of writers feel that their best work comes from first-hand experience.

Before Ms. Olds read “Ode to the Hymen” and “ode to my whiteness” (a written response to Evie Shockley’s “ode to my blackness”), she admitted she only started writing odes a few years ago. My favorite performance that evening came during “Douche Bag Ode” because I found the content to be uncomfortable yet humorous.

During the intermission, Ms. Olds told a story about a man who read “The Glass” and quit smoking as a result of the poem’s descriptions on gagging. The man waited a whole year before he wrote a letter to Ms. Olds because he wanted to make sure that he had indeed stopped smoking for good as a result of reading the poem.

Ms. Olds even read some unpublished poems, which was a real treat. It’s always fun to hear an artist’s unreleased work before it’s polished for publication because you get to experience the art before everyone else. The very last poem of the night was an unpublished ode to waters. Ms. Olds sang the last lines, ending the reading on a high note.

Afterwards, I stood in a line of about 30 people to get my copy of Strike Sparks signed by Ms. Olds herself. She was extremely nice and appeared genuinely happy to be there.

At her Master Class the next morning, Ms. Olds said, “Last night brought out the best in me. I don’t usually read that well.” She credited the engaging audience for encouraging her. Ms. Olds also talked about how she got involved with the Goldwater Writing Project, an outreach program at New York University that teaches creative writing workshops to severely physically challenged residents at Roosevelt Island’s Goldwater Hospital. The project is now in its 28th year and provides residents the opportunity to write their own poetry. They use their eye movements to spell out words that NYU graduate students translate onto paper. This program helped Ms. Olds meet all different kinds of people who really appreciate the work.

Overall, I was really impressed with Ms. Olds’s poetry reading and Master Class. I enjoyed listening to her perform and I hope she enjoyed her visit to Kutztown University.

By Philip Baily


One Response to “When Sharon Olds Came to Kutztown”


  1. » Bernadette Meyer’s Writing Experiments Poetic Muselings - November 8, 2013

    […] When Sharon Olds Came to Kutztown […]

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