And yet, I do believe that the topics of her poetry are exactly the kinds of themes and issues that should and need to be addressed, both from the pulpit and in the classrooms of churches and synagogues, and our religious institutions.
Now, I cannot speak for other religious traditions, but for me, Judaism is a spiritual practice and discipline that is all about sanctifying—making holy—our words and deeds and actions. I often ask my students to define the word “holy” or “kadosh” in Hebrew. The smart alecks reply, “not holy”. After a more serious conversation, we come to learn that in my tradition, holy means special, unique, different, set apart, extraordinary. The opposite is common or usual. Now, in truth, life would be pretty okay if each moment were ordinary, like the last. But Jewish spiritual tradition, through prayer, meditation, language, ritual and acts, allows us to take the ordinary and make it special, even extraordinary. By saying a blessing before we eat, we take time to acknowledge the action we are about to do, that we have food, that people prepared it, etc. By saying a blessing over Shabbat candles,we help make this day different from the other days of the week. And the list goes on. Even (maybe especially) sex can be holy, and our bodies, created in the image of God, are surely vessels for holy acts.
I think that is what Sharon Olds is trying to get us to think about in her poetry, and in her conversation with Tippett. Rabbi Kuk, the first chief rabbi of Palestine wrote: “our task is to take the old, and make it new, and the new and make it holy”.