Sharon Olds and Michel Foucault: The Power in the Sexual

Confessional poetry developed out of the dire need to express feelings that were greater than pain or even joy by making use of other mediums such as the environment and nature in general. It marked an era where feelings that had been suppressed finally got exposed bringing to light the strong urges and desires that were previously kept in check especially by the females in the population. This new genre was rapidly taken up and developed through the works of poets like Sylvia Path and Anne Sexton with most of the attention stemming from their personal emotions thus the direct difference from other genres.
The new genre represented what can be termed as a new way of life or the new outlook for the normal functional family, which was actually indirectly representing some form of existence that was confused largely. The day-to-day happenings could not be predicted effectively and this saw life take the course brought about by nature. This saw growth not governed and marked by occurrences that could be directly associated with hence no memories that could be looked back upon as milestones in life. The environment was so protective that childhood years simply vanished leaving no traces of their presence making it further impossible to develop future plans.


Sharon Old’s poetry brought about portrayals of erotic imaginations and this was directly representative of the discourse in which sex was taken allowing not even slight amounts of obscurity based on the reasoning behind Michael Foucault’s, history of sexuality (Foucault 20). Sharon goes ahead to represent sexuality without making any concessions or even apologies for the same. Just like Foucault, she makes use of a speaker who explores pleasures that tend to emanate from the use of power (Foucault 45). Sexuality tends to be directly linked to the family and lovers with boundaries of the same being under constant mention. The speaker in this poetry actually displays levels of control and power that are unparalleled directly introducing the notion of being in control at all times and in all situations.
Olds gets most of her power, authority from the sexual thoughts apparently driven by the emotional dysfunction presented thus the mention of the father, and the speaker in what can be termed as a sensual manner. The various stages in the work present complex relationships presented by the speaker with characteristics of vulgar talk being directly presented in a number of vulgar words including terms like “shit, and cock” and gradual shifts to words that are gentler. It is evident that according to Old’s speaker, the junction where power, sexuality and the family get to meet presents a good environment from which individuals can ultimately piece their lives and consequently develop some form of identity of their inner selves. Old’s speaker tends to view power as an element gathered from the different pieces that constitute life as opposed to Foucault’s notion of power as based on sexuality.
Emotions have come to be linked in the genre confessional poetry therefore in order to capture aspects of my own life, it is necessary to look back at the relationship shared with my father. This is all in the aim of completing the creative thesis section. Many poetic pieces tend to highlight the aspect of emotions especially in association with abuse as well as emotional incompleteness brought about by abuse and an uncertain existence. However, the sexual power as well as exploits tend to eventually turn life back around from the darkness and misery introducing an aspect akin to a rebirth giving a new chance at life to the individuals involved. A collision between the past feelings of frustration, the sexuality presented at the moment and the unknown future tend to come together in an explosive sense of emotional mix-up giving way to continuity in life. This is for instance brought up once the death of my father is remembered. The fears and dreams as well as themes that tend to be generated have similarities compared to Old’s. They actually mirror the various representations in her work for instance in Satan Says.
Critical Chapter
The critical chapter of this thesis will have its focus on emotional motions in a dysfunctional father/ daughter relationship as well the connection between this relationship and the sexual deviation that ultimately leads to the development of a connection between the erotic and daily life. Old’s work is characterized by eroticism that remains present and directly creates a linkage between Old and her family (McEwan). Olds suffers from abuse of power instigated by her father as is portrayed by Dillon. At one point, it is evident that Olds suffered a lot with some of the evidence of abuse of power being defined in terms of the suffering Olds underwent. This directly associates abuse of power with the need for the same, as it appears that the perpetrator was actually consumed with need for power. This ought to be enough for development of a poor relationship between father and daughter. Gale Swiontkowski presents another issue in Imagining incest: Sexton, Plath, Rich, and Olds on Life with Daddy. Gale looks back at the relationship between father and daughter and focuses on Olds sexuality. She happens to present eroticism and sexuality that can be attributed to either her life with her father or the environment she grew up in.
Old presents emotions that are overwhelming especially when placed in the Old’s context are erotic images. It is evident that her relationship with the father is still present due to the pain and the fact that she has managed to gain strength from the pain. This cycle seems to plague Old in a way that makes it difficult to overcome. Her childhood marked by the absence of a father’s love eventually paints a picture of her life and her view of the world and society. Her past memories are captured and projected into this view of the world clearly and this tends to explain her freedom in terms of communicating about sexuality, her family, as well as her father who she had strained relations with. This goes on to present her sexuality and the people who are her lovers as definitive tools. She actually has managed to survive outside the box with a portrayal of her sexual aptitudes in the vulgar words she uses (Satan Says).
Chapter One: This chapter will represent the vision of the world from an innocent perspective by making use of poems that are “younger” in the context of innocence. The idea behind this will be to develop a portrayal of the world from the innocent perspective gradually showing how this perspective was slowly corroded by violence eventually breaking down the walls and presenting the real world as it is. In life, every person has memories of such times and it is clear that this notions and perspectives tend to influence us even in old age. These thoughts cannot simply be erased and done away with. The notions one had early in life are determinants in the aspects of life in terms of the sexual and family outlook. This chapter will simply act as an introduction to the poems that will be presented in the other parts of the book.
Chapter Two: This chapter will try to recreate the violence perpetrated by the father as well as highlight the pain and suffering that emanated from the same. The poems will highlight this part of life and present it in various ways. The use of imagery and color will ensure the emotions are effectively brought out while showing the aspect of being trapped in a situation that presents no escape route. This section will further be tailored to portray the actual conditions of life while at the same time trying not to show any form of belligerence to the harsh situation or even to the perpetrator. The exploration of life in the past will definitely present some amount of gloom and a darker tone to ensure the audience is connected to the occurrences of the time. This part will culminate in the eventual escape from the harsh conditions.
Chapter Three: This section will introduce an analysis of the relationship between father and son. It will further introduce the poor relationship between the two parents and the eventual remarriage of mother after successfully escaping. Moving away with mother and the subsequent introduction to another father figure after mother’s remarriage will be presented in an attempt at describing the confusion that developed upon these occurrences. The acceptance of another father was one-step towards the development of a dysfunctional family unit. The tone in this section will be somber as it is expected that the same will help in expressing the pain and confusion as well as the rejection that came about due to these occurrences. This tone will try to cover up the pain and anger within.
Chapter Four: This section will present the disappointment as well as disillusionment that eventually came about upon realization that the stepfather was not the “father figure “envisioned all along. It will further address the ups and the downs presented by the various people present and revolving in life and concerning the family. This part will be filled with numerous downturns and the fact that the path of life has been filled with many inconsistencies. The path is what will be the overwhelming image in this section in an attempt to highlight the true nature of every individual involved. Therefore, it will attempt to present life in line with Old’s portrayal of the same.
Chapter Five: This chapter will present the hardest part so far in terms of emotions. Surprisingly, it will also be the easiest part to write, as it is ingrained and very relevant to life.. This section will for instance introduce the aspect of dad’s sickness and death as well as emotional effect of this news. In spite of the lack of a sound relationship with him, It will also portray the need to fly alongside my daughter to sign his cremation papers. This was emotionally challenging as it presented feelings that were deep and that had me think life over again. This was mainly because he was still my father in spite of the cruelty he had exposed everyone to. I had to visit my grandmother and lie to my daughter that we were on vacation yet we were preparing for my father’s final send off. This section will definitely include all my pent up emotions.
The creative portion will be concluded by a poem written by my father. This poem was written a long time ago and I came to learn about it recently. I was surprised to learn that he also wrote poetry. At least we had a common interest, poetry.

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