Certain Brits may be feeling a tad bent out of shape at the moment. New Hampshire’s own Sharon Olds has won the coveted T.S. Eliot Prize, an award bestowed on an American just once before in its 20-year history.
“I was very surprised. It’s very touching to me,” said Olds, who is the first female American to win the prize, considered one of the top poetry awards in the world.
“I was particularly grateful because of the feeling that by them awarding my book this honor, they were saying, ‘You’re one of us. We’re all in this together,’ ” she said.
This generosity of spirit and urge for kinship is why it’s hard to conceive of Olds truly provoking ire, had she ripped the prize out of an Englishman’s hands herself. Likewise, the collection of poetry that won her the prize, a series of poems about her divorce some 15 years ago, is astonishingly long-suffering and benevolent even as it opens deep veins of sadness.
Judges for the prize called Stag’s Leap “a tremendous book of grace and gallantry which crowns the career of a world-class poet.”
Like most of her poetry, the collection is raw with candor, grappling not just with loss but with the particular horror of being cast aside for another. It’s a candor that Olds, surprisingly, is quite comfortable with.