Stag's Leap: Poems and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
  • List Price: $16.95
  • Save: $3.74 (22%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 13 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
Stag's Leap: Poems has been added to your Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Stag's Leap: Poems Paperback – September 4, 2012

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$8.46 $7.50

The Amazon Book Review
The Amazon Book Review
Check out The Amazon Book Review, our editors' fresh new blog featuring interviews with authors, book reviews, quirky essays on book trends, and regular columns by our editors. Explore now
$13.21 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 13 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

Stag's Leap: Poems + Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002
Price for both: $28.27

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

SHARON OLDS was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford and Columbia universities. Her first book, Satan Says (1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Her second, The Dead and the Living, was  both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Father was short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize in England, and The Unswept Room was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and is one of the founders of  NYU's writing workshops for residents of Goldwater Hospital, and for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Last Hour

Suddenly, the last hour
before he took me to the airport, he stood up,
bumping the table, and took a step
toward me, and like a figure in an early
science fiction movie he leaned
forward and down, and opened an arm,
knocking my breast, and he tried to take some
hold of me, I stood and we stumbled,
and then we stood, around our core, his
hoarse cry of awe, at the center,
 at the end, of our life. Quickly, then,
the worst was over, I could comfort him,
holding his heart in place from the back
and smoothing it from the front, his own
life continuing, and what had
bound him, around his heart—and bound him
to me—now lying on and around us,
 sea-water, rust, light, shards,
the little eternal curls of eros
beaten out straight.

Stag’s Leap

Then the drawing on the label of our favorite red wine
looks like my husband, casting himself off a
cliff in his fervor to get free of me.
His fur is rough and cozy, his face
placid, tranced, ruminant,
the bough of each furculum reaches back
to his haunches, each tine of it grows straight up
and branches, like a model of his brain, archaic,
unwieldy. He bears its bony tray
level as he soars from the precipice edge,
dreamy. When anyone escapes, my heart
leaps up. Even when it’s I who am escaped from,
I am half on the side of the leaver. It’s so quiet,
and empty, when he’s left. I feel like a landscape,
a ground without a figure. Sauve
qui peut—let those who can save themselves
save themselves. Once I saw a drypoint of someone
tiny being crucified
on a fallow deer’s antlers. I feel like his victim,
and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched
legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he
throws himself off. Oh my mate. I was vain of his
faithfulness, as if it was
a compliment, rather than a state
of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he
feel he had to walk around
carrying my books on his head like a stack of
posture volumes, or the rack of horns
hung where a hunter washes the venison
down with the sauvignon? Oh leap,
leap! Careful of the rocks! Does the old
vow have to wish him happiness
in his new life, even sexual
joy? I fear so, at first, when I still
can’t tell us apart. Below his shaggy
belly, in the distance, lie the even dots
of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots
clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their
blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans.

My Son’s Father’s Smile

In my sleep, our son, as a child, said,
of his father, he smiled me—as if into
existence, into the family built around the
young lives which had come from the charged
bouquets, the dense oasis. That smile,
those years, well what can a body say, I have
been in the absolute present of a fragrant
ignorance. And to live in those rooms,
where one of his smiles might emerge, like something
almost from another place,
another time, another set
of creatures, was to feel blessed, and to be
held in mysteriousness, and a little
in mourning. The thinness of his lips gave it
a simplicity, like a child’s drawing
of a smile—a footbridge, turned over on its back, or seen
under itself, in water—and the archer’s
bow gave it a curved unerring
symmetry, a shot to the heart. I look back on that un-
clouded face yet built of cloud,
and that waning crescent moon, that look
of deep, almost sad, contentment, and know myself
lucky, that I had out the whole
night of a half-life in that archaic
hammock, in a sky whose darkness is fading, that
first dream, from which I am now waking. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375712259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375712258
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By C. O. Aptowicz on September 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Sharon Olds since a copy of "Satan Says" leapt from a used bookstore shelf and into my college backpack, and lived there for the better part of a year. As I continued to explore her work through her numerous books, I fell in love with her poetry, how it balances the hard and soft of life. I loved how her sharp, perceptive mind was balanced and embellished by a sensual, love-drunk heart.

Her poems about her husband were some of the most tender and authentic writing about adult committed relationships that I'd ever experienced. Her poetry grew to be an enormous influence on me as both a writer and a woman, and I know that I am not alone in that. When news of Olds's divorce became public, I remember gasping out loud in shock. I had read and reread her poems so much, that I remembered their details of their thirty year long marriage almost as if it was my own. I felt guilty about how I immediately craved to read her poetry about the subject, to see how her mind was processing what seemed so impossible to me.

Fifteen years later, "Stag's Leap" tells the story of this harrowing time in Olds's life. From the first poem "While He Told Me" (which explores with heart-breaking detail the evening her husband told he wanted a divorce, while her eyes darted "from small thing / to small thing, in our room, the face / of the bedside clock, the sepia postcard / of a woman bending down to a lily") to the last poem "What Left" (where she stares back at the fifteen years of cleaving, and the years proceeding it, with marvelous strength and clarity), Olds creates a masterwork of love and loss.

Delicate, intimate and un-self-conscious, Olds explores the landscape of the new world she is stunned to find herself.
Read more ›
3 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
85 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Jon Corelis on April 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
Contemporary American poetry arose a half century ago out of the confluence of a number of social and literary trends. The first was the rise of the confessional school of poets, associated especially with Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and John Berryman: poets who attempted to make poems out of their lives, frankly using their most intimate real life experiences as subject matter. At the same time, poetry rather suddenly went from being something which ordinary people at least occasionally would read - many old enough will remember a time when the typical household had at least a few poetry books around, even if they were old chestnuts like the Oxford Book of English Verse, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and The Complete Poems of Keats and Shelley - to something which virtually no one except poets, critics, and a few college students paid any attention to. Both as cause and effect of this disregard, poets quickly moved into the ivory tower, with the great majority of persons claiming the title poet actually making their living as academics. This migration of poets to the academy was simultaneous with the creative writing movement, in which professors believed any student could be taught to be a poet by being inculcated with the movement's trinity of principles - "Find Your Voice," "Show, Don't Tell," and "Write What You Know," and mastering a toolkit of specialized literary devices.

One of the most pernicious effects of these developments was the evolution of confessional poetry into poetry as therapy. Those original confessionalists were fine poets, but their successors adopted the same frankness without the same talent, learning, or discipline.
Read more ›
22 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Faye Girsh on May 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though this volume was awarded the Pulitzer it is a depressing, extremely introspective account of Sharon Olds' reaction to her husband of 30 years telling her he was leaving her for another woman. Her use of words is extraordinary, including some really obscure words, but it is unceasingly self-pitying and angry. Someone in my poetry group said it was no wonder her husband left her. Not that Olds is not an unusual and talented poet it's just that it's so unrelentingly depressing.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
A recent film, "A Late Quartet," is about a chamber music group forced to confront the cellist's illness. The movie is a kind of classical music soap opera, and there's a subplot I could have done without, but most of the writing is crisp and the acting is sensational. I was especially taken by a scene in which Philip Seymour Hoffman apologizes to his wife, Catherine Keener, for a stupid night of infidelity.

Hoffman: I love you more than anything in the world. I made a stupid mistake.

Keener's response is inconclusive.

Hoffman: Do you really love me? Or I am just... convenient?

Keener: What do you want? What is it you want me to tell you?

That exchange broke me because the language and the emotion merged --- in that desperate moment, you don't have Shakespearean eloquence, just raw hurt.

Those emotions are written in blood in the 49 poems in "Stag's Leap," the new book by Sharon Olds. If you've read her, you know that politics and poetics are not her topic. She is. And this time, she has an epic event to write about.

When she was 55 and had been married for 32 years, her husband announced that he had fallen in love with another woman and was leaving her. That was devastating for Olds --- she had often written about her marriage, and for those who read her poems as a diary, it was passionate and profound. Now, reflexively, she began to write again. She made one promise, and it was to her two adult children: I won't publish anything for a decade.

Fifteen years later, she published "Stag's Leap. " The reference is to her husband's favorite wine. Equally, that stag jumping off a cliff was a metaphor for her husband's exit: "When anyone escapes, my heart/ leaps up.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
Stag's Leap: Poems
This item: Stag's Leap: Poems
Price: $13.21
Ships from and sold by

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?