Sharon Olds was awarded the Pulitzer Prize today for her poetry collection Stag's Leap. It seems like a fine time to point readers to Tony Hoagland's great essay from 2009 defending her work.
What do you get as a reward for being a poet like Sharon Olds? For having written five hundred-plus poems which plumb the range of family dynamics and intimate physicality with a precision and metaphorical resourcefulness greater than may have ever before been applied to those subjects? For having permanently extended and transformed the tradition of the domestic poem? For doing as much, singlehandedly, to win readers to American poetry, as any poet of the latter 20th century? For making poetry seem vital and relevant to young and not-so-young adults all over the place? Well, you win great popularity. You are loved by many, for both right and wrong reasons. You are run down by envious peers, and overlooked by academics. Your name is invoked like a brand name to denote the obviousness of confessional poetry. You are accused of repetition, narcissism, and exhibitionism.