Sharon Olds and Elizabeth Bishop

Due to my ongoing interest in any and all times Bishopian…

This excerpt is from a review by Moira Richards at Rattle of Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic by Alicia Suskin Ostriker:

In another essay, about the work of Elizabeth Bishop and Sharon Olds, “I Am (Not) This: Erotic Discourse in Elizabeth Bishop and Sharon Olds,” Ostriker takes that feminist approach to the way the poetry of those two women is often misread, misunderstood–perhaps “pigeon-holed” is a better word–by patriarchal readings. She looks at marginalisation and argues and illustrates her points with lines of poetry in a way which is both inviting and accessible for a lay reader like me. Perhaps the cornerstone of this essay is her point that:

Bishop mostly evades, Olds mostly asserts erotic connection – but for both, the erotic is a power preceding and defining the self; for both, it exists at the liminal border between language and the unsayable; for both, it abuts on a realm we may call spiritual. Technically, however cool the voice of Bishop, however seemingly overheated the voice of Olds, the metaphors of both poets enact the erotic.