Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds is a beautiful collection of poetry which, together tell the story of her divorce. She takes the details of her life, from the moment her husband says he wants a divorce through her own acceptance of her new status us an unmarried woman. The loss of identity that follows the rejection of someone who knows you better than anyone else and who promised to love you until you both died simmers in the lines when she writes “I believe he is not coming back. Something / has died, inside me, believing that” even as a few poems later she details the falling in love, the challenges that come with letting go (Known to Be Left).
Some poems resonate with influences including Mother Goose and, unless I am thoroughly mistaken, Elizabeth Bishop. And even as she comes to the point of acceptance, there is the confession “I did not know him, I knew my idea / of him” (Slowly He Starts). While highly personal, the emotions are familiar: the confusion of being rejected, replaced. And, with acceptance comes a gratitude of what was shared, all of the poems that precede “Poem of Thanks” and, finally, “What Left?” where the poet is not only able to celebrate the courage it took for her to survive but even the courage it took her husband to free them both from a marriage that was no longer suited.
At times painful, this poetry collection is ultimately healing in its celebration of how love lasts even when relationships end.