“Late in her life, when we fell in love
I’d take her out from the nursing home
for a chaser and two bourbons. She’d crack
a joke sharp as a tin lid
hot from the teeth of the can-opener,
and cackle her crack-corn laugh…”

Poem by Sharon Olds, Grandmother Love Poem

I prefer prose to poetry, but Sharon Olds puts words into my mouth like foreign foods. I don’t know if it is animal or plant, but I know it is good, it is so perfectly right. Reading her poems is like recognizing the half of me that only I know about. That inner self held tight, held down, held hidden from the surface of proper behavior.

After the Rape in Our Building

“The day after we heard about it,
We made love, in the morning, he entered me
And I thought, It’s not so bad, I could hardly feel anything,
Just something hard going in and out of me
Somewhere far away down my body
Like something seen from a distance, an ocean liner
Going down twenty miles away…”

Olds is strong, she is direct, she “carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss”. A lot has been written about Sharon Olds, that she has a raw language, that she transmits truths about violence, and sexuality, and relationships in families. For me she illuminates places most of us keep comfortably dim or covered, so they seem not to exist.

Sharon Olds’s jolting images heighten my creativity. There is an emotional beauty in her chilling tragedies. She infuses evil and cruelty in the secret corners of her poems. We understand that her childhood was very painful, but what an invincible spirit!

The Eye

“My bad grandfather wouldn’t feed us.
He turned the lights out when we tried to read.
He sat alone in the invisible room
in front of the hearth, and drank. He died
when I was seven, and Grandma had never once
taken anyone’s side against him,
the firelight on his red cold face
reflecting extra on his glass eye.
Today I thought about that glass eye,
and how at night in the big double bed
he slept facing his wife, and how the limp
hole, where his eye had been, was open
towards her on the pillow, and how I am
one-fourth him, a brutal man with a
hole for an eye, and one-fourth her,
a woman who protected no one. I am their
sex, too, their son, their bed, and
under their bed the trap-door to the
cellar, with its barrels of fresh apples, and
somewhere in me too is the path
down to the creek gleaming in the dark, a
way out of there.”

Sharon Olds is a stunning poet who speaks to me. I have all of her books which I read often. And each time her words, coming from a place that is real, and opaque, and dark, give me clarity. She makes me want to paint, because my brushes are what I have. Her words are my colors, her images are my dreams.


“As we made love for the third day,
cloudy and dark, as we did not stop
but went into it and into it and
did not hesitate and did not hold back we
rose through the air, until we were up above…

…on the crest of the mountains, one huge
cloud with scalloped edges of blazing
evening light, we did not turn back,
we stayed with it, even though we were
far beyond what we knew, we rose
into the grain of the cloud, even though we were
frightened, the air hollow, even though
nothing grew there, even though it is a
place from which no one has ever come back.”

She takes me to that place, then she releases me.


  1. Thankyou Dear C, for introduing me to this poet. What strength. Your paintings highlight the words so perfectly too.

  2. your post leaves me speechless. wordless. yet longing to put into words the feelings and thoughts that swirl and churn.

    thank you for sharing these poems that are new to me and their author, also new. how could i have missed her? the raw beauty of her words?

    Compelling images. of pain. and terror. with a sharp clarity of experiences one would rather not share. but then, must.

  3. Hi CVeleste Maia,
    Lovely post, never heard of Sharon Olds before really enjoyed her poems and your words and pictures beautiful thanks alot.

  4. Querida Celeste. Adoro as suas pinturas, parece imagem real mas vivo e cheio de sentimentos. Uma coisa que e muito dificil mostrar in fotografias.
    As poemas sao lindas, mas sem as pinturas nao ganhem vida.

    Um abraco.

  5. My god.

    I feel that way about Olds too. I started reading her almost 20 years ago now when I began to speak my own unspeakable thoughts in poems - my new language then, about church and God. She gave me permission, in her open raw sexual violent poems.

    Your paintings move me, especially juxtaposed in this context with her words. That first one just knocked my socks off, and then they kept coming. Afferin (bravo) to you, as we say in Turkish. And also ellerinize saglik - health to your hands.

  6. Celeste Maia,
    As me comment was being published I saw that my fingers caught on another letter...I am shocked I did not see this V before.

  7. Hola Celeste. Stunning images to accompany the moving poetry. The first picture I remember from your website, with speculation by some of whether underwear was included. The poem very much reminds me of my earthy grandmother, Nellie, who died aged 90.

  8. Celeste, in the short time I have been blogging with you, I have found you so interesting, upbeat, talented and you really proved it today. Great poems, prose, and the wonderful paintings. Please email me.

  9. A post very dear to my heart. You have mail!



  10. Celeste, just found your blog yesterday and enjoyed spending time going through it. I am so impressed and delighted by your art, your fascinating paintings and beautiful photos. I'm a writer and a writer should be careful with adjectives, but here they are anyway!

    I'm looking forward to more of your posts. And thank you for following my blog and I'm happy you're entertained by my stories.

    Miss Footloose
    Tales of the Globetrotting Life

  11. What a wonderful post. You chose such strong poems. Every one of them touched me - some in ways that I did not expect or necessarily like - but each in a way that I could tangibly feel. And the images that you shared are beautiful as well, and perfect with the words. Thank you Celeste, for sharing this.

  12. Thank you, Celeste. I have never met this poet before. The paintings are marvelous - certainly as strong as her words. Beautiful!

  13. Celeste-
    Moving words.
    Stunning images.

    Really (really!) love your work ---


  14. Very hard for me to read. Very beautiful. You have seen my blog. I have not yet written of my grandfather. But I cherish art that is difficult--something from which I want to look. The hard beauty and the truth are so very necessary. You are a writer of enormous power, in your own right. And we get to read this ongoing book, fully illustrated, that has the power to open OUR creativity as well. I am crying and so grateful for these tears. BUT, THANKS A BUNCH. Now I have to go find Olds' books to OWN, not just borrow. MY GOD, you are a gift to us.

  15. Wow! What an impact I can see in your art from Sharon Olds. It takes my breathe away.

  16. I'm supposed to have inherited my inarticulateness from my father (as well as all his other bad traits) so how do I say how these poems and your paintings affected me. Can only think of Jung again and my shadow self and it just occurs to me that Jung would have loved cyberspace because the collective unconscious is out there for everybody.

  17. Thank you. How I had missed her, I do not know. I'll catch up and feel grateful to you every day.

    Marion B is one heck of a courageous poet and writer in these last few years. First colon cancer, then a heart attack, then two years ago she was diagnosed with diabetes. Lung cancer was detected one year ago, and we had a glorious small get together yesterday. She still has marginal energy, and all her focus has been on getting her book to the publisher. She sent it off last week, and here's a link to her blog.


    I send hugs to you too. I hope you are fixable and will soon be leaping around with us. Keep me posted. I care.

  18. Celeste, intensity of her writing is driving you to take the brush and paint... wow!! Quiero ver qué emergerà en tu tela.
    María Cecilia

  19. What can I say? You took me to another world. Her poetry is raw, scary, real, sensual. Your paintings are nothing short of amazing. Wow, the creativity in this post takes my breath away. A great big thank you!

  20. Continuo deliciado. Ainda há pouco tempo, a propósito das suas pinturas, escrevia à Maria José textualmente “gosto de mistérios… se fossem romances diria narrativas abertas”. Confirma-se.
    Um beijinho

  21. Muito lindo, e verdade. o meu marido tem razao; os quadros parecem alimentar a poesia e vice-versa. E uma harmonia perfeita. Quanto a mim propria, digo que adoro a maneira como a luz danca nas pinturas.

  22. Many thanks for including these lovely poems! the pictures are so nice also!
    Celeste, I would think you might enjoy
    Dr.Zhivago which is supposed to be a novel about life in Russia during the civil war there. The love story is great; I've only seen the film which is based upon writings; a book I suppose.
    the novel Crime and Punishment by Dostroyevsky.Sp?
    OK but Out of Africa is a great romantic film that you might enjoy. It is supposedly based on a novel about a playwright's life in Africa Isaac Dinnesan.(sp?)
    My recent favorite is : The Power of One; a superb book about growing up in multicultural Africa. I love Sydney Poiter's biography.
    thank you so much for your great comments. Please comment some more!

  23. Marvellous work of art! I just loved the way the shadows works and the reflections on the paintings. From the deep meaning of poems are brought alive by those beautiful images. You are just extraordinary and amazing. Hugs.

  24. Later in life - an everlasting present,
    neither past, nor future.

    Never met this writer before, however surely enriches thoughts; senses as well, beautifully done through your pieces of art,
    to remain in the moment you paint/write about.

  25. hauntingly beautiful - the all of it - namaste' - jenean

  26. magnífico post! Não conhecia, mas gostei muito assim como das obras que acompanham o texto! Parabéns! abraço

  27. Thanks for visiting my blog and becoming a follower!

    Your paintings are absolutely gorgeous and have a certain feel about them. I really enjoyed them.

    I'll have to find more of this poet's work. Her writing is very deep and powerful. Thanks for posting about her.

  28. wow.
    Your paintings take my breath away. And seeing the images with Sharon Olds poetry brings a multi-layered consciousness to both bodies of work. I see the poetry in the paintings.

    Amazing what happens when we allow ourselves 'full' expression! The shadows enhance and inform the paintings, as well as the poetry. Life is a tapestry of light and shadow, and all the gray in-between!

    Thank you for another amazing post!

  29. Sharon Olds is one of my favourite women poets. She is not terribly well-known except among the older feminists, those of us who sat around kitchen tables plotting revenge on man-kind. Having said that, I realize that younger generations of women no longer feel the need to be feminists.
    Do please tell me, Celeste Maia, are the pictures of your paintings? I adore them, I love the interplay between light and shadow.I would love to be able to hang you on my walls.

  30. Celeste, you are an amazing woman with strong courage and talents. The words you wrote on my blog throughout my life has been my mantra since I was old enough to experience many losses. I hope to hear from you soon.

    Tal como a maioria eu também não conhecia estes poemas, são lindos e profundos, ligam bem com estas tuas pinturas, pensei que já estavas nos States.... mas não!
    Beijinho,. HELENA

  32. Wonderful post...the strength in the words along with the lovely photos!

  33. Expressive all around and visually a delight.

  34. You have no idea how much hearing from you these last few months have been. I know you have spread much joy throughout the world of blogs and Celeste all I can say is the best of everything to you.

  35. I love your paintings! You are truly a great talent.

  36. I am in love with the first painting. She is my kind of creature. Mary oliver is the poet I reach for whenever I feel the need. It is her connection to the natural world that heals me. Your paintings are absolutely stunning.

  37. I like the Grandmother Love Poem and the image of the woman asleep in her yellow gown.

  38. It's just great information about a great poet, presented with your superb artworks.

    Building a New Home

  39. Cracking poetry. Witty and wise. It's the kind of poetry that carries the weight of experience upon its shoulders but far from feeling overwhelmed, laughs the whole situation off.

    Many thanks for introducing me to this fine poet.

    Greetings from London.

  40. The poems are indeed powerful, but put so simply! I love the play of light and shadows in your paintings. Simply amazing!

  41. Very evocative images and words Celeste, xv.

  42. Sharon Olds scares me. She is raw. Her insight too close to the bone. Your paintings soften the blow.

  43. Dear Celeste,
    thank you so much for your comments!
    Please come back and comment on Patrick Swayze's death.... did you see his movies?
    Celest have you read "the Power of One"?
    I can reccomend that and the Autobiography of Sydney Poitier!
    bothare exceptionally written and really fascinating!
    Love you, natalie

  44. Your paintings are perfect companions to her poems. Hey,is there a collaborative effort possibility here?

  45. Yes, indeed, the paintings and the poems make a perfect duet. Thank you, Celeste!

  46. Celeste, you're brave and sensitive...your paintings have a fluidity about them, I think of water and how it is always changing states in the nature...I think in how things happen, how one thing leads to another...and on and on.

  47. So far I have never heard of Sharon Olds, but luckily I got to know her through you. It has strongly impressed me when I read on wikipedia that, and with what poetic words, she rejected an invitation from Laura Bush. Of the poems After the Rape in Our Building has moved me most, the painting could not be better selected. What a post, I love it!

  48. WOW!
    Celeste, you are fearless, facing every corner of your conscious and subconscious mind!
    The poems you share with the paintings they inspired are an incredible channel to the distant and sometimes hidden corners of our own psyches.
    This is an amazing gift you have - insight!
    Your insight helps us see within with a clarity seldom found!
    This could be the seed of an important book!!!
    Sharon Olds words find an echo in yours and in your paintings, and they reverberate through all who are fortunate enough to be here with you.
    Thank you again, my fearless Winged Victory!!!
    Love and appreciation,
    Isabel (in DC)

  49. Oh, how I love this series of paintings! Absolutely gorgeous!
    Added to them Sharon Olds poetry...it is pure magic!

    Beautiful post!

  50. Thank you for commenting on my blog while I was away. Your paintings are so beautiful – every time I look at them I find something new. I knew the poem “Mrs, Krikorian” by Sharon Olds but not too many others – I shall find them now. We came back from our 10 days vacation in Canada and found our family room flooded. I posted some pictures of the flood on my blog – so many people lost their homes, it was devastating. We are cleaning up and the creek near our house has receded. It was not what I expected coming back home to Georgia.

  51. very beautiful prose and lovely paintings..
    I thought that the stories were a lesson in endurance and strength through cruelty
    and abandonment
    Come and leave comments at Lurkynat
    hugs, natalie

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