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Poet Sharon Olds to Read and Lecture During Visit to Ithaca College

Ithaca, NY--The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at Ithaca College will continue October 22-26 with a visit from poet Sharon Olds. Sponsored by the Department of Writing, the series will bring Olds to campus for five days of informal meetings with students and faculty, a master class, and two public events.

Olds will deliver a lecture on Tuesday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m. in 225 Williams Hall. On Thursday, October 25, she will read from her works at 7:30 p.m. in Park Hall Auditorium. Both events are free and open to the public.

Born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford and Columbia, Olds arrived as a poet somewhat late: her first collection, "Satan Says," was published in 1980, when she was 37. Over the course of eight books, however, she has quickly become one of America's most highly regarded poets. Her readings attract overflow audiences, and her volume "The Dead and the Living" won the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award. That work, typical of Olds's poetry, uses raw language and startling imagery to convey observations about domestic and political violence, sexuality, family relations, and the physical sensations of inhabiting a human body.

The accessibility of her subjects--the death of Marilyn Monroe, a mother's focus on the lives of her children--coupled with her direct language have appealed to a wide range of readers. As a result, almost all of her books have undergone multiple printings. "The Dead and the Living" alone has sold more than 50,000--a remarkably high number for a volume of poetry.

"I think my work is easy to understand because I'm not an intellectual," Olds told a reviewer from "Salon" magazine. "I'm not an abstract thinker. I'm interested in ordinary life."

That focus on vivid imagery is perhaps best expressed in her 1992 collection, "The Father," in which Olds zeroes in her father's death from cancer. While her alcoholic and distant father played a role in many of Olds's earlier poems, here he is the central concern as a daughter chronicles her rage, grief, and bereavement that comes from caring for and ultimately mourning a father who didn't care for her. "American Book Review" contributor Steve Kowit wrote, " As a coherent sequence of poems, 'The Father' has a most uncommon power--impelling the reader forward with the narrative and dramatic force of a stunning novel."

Olds has received a number of awards, including the Lamont Poetry Prize, Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award, and New York State Poet Award, given every two years by the New York State Writers Institute.

She is a professor of English at New York University, where she teaches in the Creative Writing Program. During her stay at Ithaca College, she will share her experiences and discuss her craft with students and faculty as well as conduct a master class on "Writing New Poems."

Now in its third year, the Distinguished Visiting Writers Series has previously hosted William Kennedy, Judy Grahn, Joy Williams, Barbara Ehrenreich, Donald Hall, and Adrienne Rich.

For more information contact Katharyn Howd Machan, associate professor of writing, at (607) 274-3325 or machan@ithaca.edu.