Poetry News

"As a child I was a very successful liar": Sharon Olds Interviewed at BOMBLOG

By Harriet Staff

Head over to BOMBLOG for this interview Sarah V. Schweig conducted with Sharon Olds.

Here's a sample, in which Olds talks about metaphor and her writing process over the years:

SVS You’ve said that metaphor scares you—can you talk a bit about the ethics of using a metaphor? What is questionable or scary about saying one thing is something else?

SO As a child I was a very successful liar, and so I was probably twenty when I thought, Alright no more lies, because I couldn’t tell the difference—for myself—what was true and what wasn’t. And I wanted to be sane, and to have a sensible mind, and metaphor is not about having a sensible mind. Similes are okay—that’s how I perceive things. I don’t know if our most metaphoric poets are those with the strongest grasp on the literal and so can afford to go out there, but I’m not one of them.

My first drafts are not stream of consciousness; they aren’t free-writing in any way; they aren’t prose—a lot of poets start with prose, but I don’t. For me, they’re mostly four beat lines. If I start and I go wrong, I start writing it over. And if I go wrong again, I start again. I try on the first draft to stay fairly true to the feeling and the sound. And I go back if it sounds fake or labored or like a person couldn’t think it.

I’ve been thinking recently about: how do we fetter our imaginations? If a first thought comes to us and it seems to weird, do we ever turn it down without even knowing it in exchange for the next thought that isn’t too weird? I want to not censor my unconscious before my pen has even reached the paper.

SVS Has your writing process changed over the years? How?

SO There were some changes earlier on—like no sections in the poems anymore, except one is in this book. This is maybe the only one in any of the last of eight books that has a break in it. It’s when the speaker turns to the thought of September 11th. That break is to say, “I know I have no business stepping here.” It’s like a sacred space.

Full interview here.

Originally Published: September 6th, 2012