Great news that Sharon Olds has won the T.S.Eliot prize. Writers are notoriously tough on those around them, plundering their lives for material. We regularly trot out Greene’s “sliver of ice”, and Roth’s generalisation – “when a writer is born, the family dies.” In David Lodge’s Small World two young lovers, just about to got to bed, have a moment of hesitation: “Are you going to write about this?” Rachel Cusk, having shared with the world her sceptical, self-questioning feelings about having a baby, is now inspired – if that’s the word – to share her divorce with the world.
So I guess it had to happen. Sharon Olds, always searingly honest, and deeply embedded in what seem like some of the most intense relationships ever to feature in verse, has also experienced divorce, and has also written about it. So much, so predictable. But what is astonishing, given the impulsive impatience of these driven writers, is that – recognising the impact of this stuff on her children – she has waited fifteen years to publish a set of thoughtful, gracious poems without a trace of bitterness. Now that is impressive.