Announcing the 2022 Frost Medalist, Sharon Olds

January 31, 2022

The Poetry Society of America is pleased to announce that Sharon Olds is the 2022 recipient of the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. Named for Robert Frost, and first given in 1930, the Frost Medal is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in American poetry and is awarded annually at the discretion of the PSA's Board of Governors. Previous winners of the award include Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Lucille Clifton, and most recently, N. Scott Momaday.

The Frost Medal citation from the Poetry Society of America’s Board of Governors reads:

While achieving the highest literary honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, Sharon Olds has also earned an enormous following as one of the most beloved poets of her generation. She writes about everyday things with an extraordinary bravery. "I'm interested in ordinary life,” Olds says, “and letting the experience get through you onto the notebook with pen, through the arm, out of the body, onto the page, without distortion." What Olds uncovers can be unsettling—the aftermath of divorce, a father’s slow decline and death—but her poems embolden us to experience the fullness of our own lives with an unflinching intimacy, “without distortion.” Olds has had an extraordinary influence on younger poets, as her candor about sex, motherhood, and family trauma, the pleasures and failings of the body, has demolished taboos and opened up new fields of poetic discovery. A poet of constant linguistic surprise, Sharon Olds is a master of the American vernacular. The Poetry Society of America takes enormous pride in awarding the Frost Medal, our highest award, to a poet of such courage and brilliance, who has impacted this generation and future generations of poets in so many diverse and as yet to be discovered ways.

For You
By Sharon Olds

In the morning, when I’m pouring the hot milk
into the coffee, I put the side of my
face near the convex pitcher to watch
the last, round drop from the spout,
and it feels like being cheek to cheek
with a baby. Sometimes the orb pops back up,
a ball of cream balanced on a whale’s
watery exhale. Then I gather my tools
of my craft, the cherry sounding-board tray
for my lap, the phone, the bird book for looking up
the purple martin. I repeat them as I seek them,
so as not to forget: tray, cell phone,
purple martin; tray, phone,
martin, Trayvon Martin, song was
invented for you, all art was made
for you, painting, writing, was yours,
our youngest, our most precious, to remind us
to shield you—all was yours, all that is
left on earth, with your body, was for you.

Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. She is the author of twelve books of poetry, including most recently Arias (2019), short-listed for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize, Odes (2016) and Stag’s Leap (2012), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize. Her other honors include the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award for her first book, Satan Says (1980), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her second, The Dead and the Living (1983), which was also the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983. The Father (1992) was short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize in England, and The Unswept Room (2002) was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her newest collection Balladz is forthcoming in 2022. From 1998 to 2000 she served as the New York State Poet. Olds teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helped to found the NYU workshop program for residents of Coler-Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. She lives in New York City.

A selection of Sharon Old’s books can be purchased through the Poetry Society of America’s store on Bookshop, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores.

"For You" from Arias by Sharon Olds. Copyright © 2019 by Sharon Olds.