Poetry Books

Manual for Living

Pitt Poetry Series


Advance Praise 

A powerfully gifted psalmist, Sharon Dolin creates in “Of Hours” a singular world of praise and pain. Charged with biblical echoes and reminiscent of the religious poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, her language strains and buckles to give voice to her yearning, as God (“you”) appears and disappears, hour by hour.—Avivah Zornberg, Biblical Scholar

Manual for Living contains poems that bloom via rhyme and wordplay into complex and disarming self-knowledge and self-instruction. There is bewilderment and delight in the movement and mind of these poems.                 —Matthea Harvey


Sharon Dolin’s latest collection, Manual for Living, is poetry whose language is lit by Gerard Manley Hopkins’s lantern . . . . It is poetry precise in diction, with delight deepening with meanings discovered and an unabashed relish in alliteration and the full range of rhymes, and it’s all in service of a self that’s pitched to heightened spiritual awareness.—Pleiades: Book Review Supplement, 2017

Dolin can do pretty much anything she wants to do with language on the micro and macro levels. She highlights individual letters by placing the first poems in alphabetical order.  She exploits the syllables in deft rhyme and assonance. A knowing use of phrase and line break informs the poems themselves . . . . On the page, the reader can hear and admire Sharon Dolin’s accomplishment in this modestly titled, break-through collection: a blend of order and surprise, brilliant echoes of Rilke’s ecstasy, echoes, as well, of G. M. Hopkins’s devout petitions for wisdom and flight.          —The Lake

Manual for Living presents three different sets of self-advice which the reader, along with Dolin, tries on and then challenges. Employing a sparkling linguistic palette, Dolin’s poems rejoice, mourn a little, and then laugh at life’s reality of not knowing the future, the divine, or one’s own purpose.—Salamander

Order Manual for Living here or here or from the publisher.

ISBN-13:9780822964063  80 pages; $15.95; University of Pittsburgh Press 


Pitt Poetry Series

University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012


In Whirlwind, Sharon Dolin’s trademark quick wit and candor are infused with an uncanny mix of flirt and fury. Anchored by women who ride or are ridden by the blues, these expert poems shift between ode, testimonial, and elegy. Here is the ‘oh boy woe’ that prompts serious play; here is the intensity a woman displays when ‘her head is lifted above some suffering.” Whirlwind is a book of wonderful whimsy, grace, and bite.—Terrance Hayes

The latest from Dolin (Burn and Dodge) departs from her previous work in its forceful sadness, and in the unity of its themes: everything in it examines Dolin’s divorce, the end of her marriage, her husband’s affair, her anger and self-isolation, or, in the closing sheaf of poems, her new lover and their erotic rebirth. [A]n overt awareness of precedent inspire Dolin’s variety of forms: a litany, a ghazal, Dantesque unrhymed narrative tercets (“To the Furies Who Visited Me in the Basement of Duane Reade”), syllabics in homage to Marianne Moore, step-down lines like William Carlos Williams’s, and a volume-ending tribute to Federico Garcia Lorca (“Blue how you’ll ride me blue”). One of the best pieces builds up a lattice of puns: “When I lacked/ desire my love unlatched// his key from me and soon/ I lacked a lackey. Deserted,/ unstirred, to no sir inured.”

—Publishers Weekly

ISBN-13: 978-0-8229-6221-2
88 pages; $15.95; University of Pittsburgh Press 

Burn and Dodge

Pitt Poetry Series

University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008

Winner of the 2007 Association of Writers and

Writing Program’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry


“Burn and Dodge is an apt title for this book. Dolin’s poems adroitly move in and out of shadow, shed light, contrast or blend as the context demands. The need to measure is strong in these poems, to examine how we live within the constraints of our emotions and how they get the better of us. Her language is lithe and motored, her meanings channeled by her formal devotions, without ever being reduced to mere accoutrements of form. She writes at the edge of compression, with such pop to her lines that I’m reminded of Auden’s definition of poetry—‘memorable speech.’”—Bob Hicok

“Sharon Dolin dons her seven-league boots and leaps confidently over our small fenced-in territories (formalism, L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E, blahblahblah), picking from these gardens as she chooses, and devising wily new recipes of her own.”—Albert Goldbarth

“Sharon Dolin moves between tradition and innovation with dazzling agility, speed, and grace. ‘By fire. By stammering. Stoning. By water.’ Her poems hook us with their candor and wit. While many are meditations on guilt, regret, and doubt, this work has an innate optimism—a restorative quality—that encourages us to ‘lust for lust, hope for / hoping’ and ‘awaken each day, wanting / to want.’”—Elaine Equi

“Whatever else she does with the American language, Dolin (Heart Work) has fun: the New York City-based poet’s fourth volume combines great verbal ingenuity with a vast set of subjects, some quite serious (motherhood, sex) some near the upper limits of light verse (eavesdropping on “the summer au pair””), and some in between (a walking tour of Venice, “Tai Chi in Fog”). At home with the personal lyric, she sounds at least as happy when she can be self-consciously literary: when “Envy Speaks,” the personified emotion calls herself “a naked 500-year-old woman/ riding Death, saddled with a quiver of arrows.” Dolin works, to witty or masterful effect, in Marianne Moore’s syllabic stanzas, a sonnet sequence, ghazals, ultra-short-lined and fragmentary free verse, chatty prose poems, and deliberate imitations (of, among others, Moore, the Portuguese genius Fernando Pessoa, and the English peasant poet John Clare). Dolin’s best lines display both learning and wit-sometimes they sound comic, or flirtatious: “A lick over the foot doesn’t qualify as a crime,/ though a cigarette butt or a soda can not thrown in a can/ can in the Netherlands.” Among contemporary poets, she may appeal both to fans of the very accessibly urbane (say, Deborah Garrison), and to those who admire more demanding wordplay (say, Kay Ryan). Attentive readers will find credible emotions, real problems of divided love and of middle-aged worry, amid the sometimes baroque surfaces of Dolin’s poems. But the surfaces matter: they are the gift she brings.”—Publisher’s Weekly

“Burn and Dodge, Sharon Dolin’s fourth full-length work (and Winner of the 2007 Association of Writers and Writing Program’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry) is exceedingly fine. . . . I was surprised and delighted by Dolin’s language play and the complexity of her ideas. I experienced this book as a game for the brain. . . . In all sections and often with great success, Dolin plays with and mixes schools and forms such as ghazals and sonnets. Never purely an exercise for form’s sake, she uses wordplay and metre to question the boundaries of meaning.”—Feminist Review, excerpt

“Dolin’s collection reveals a deft hand, a playful ear and an earnest attempt to write outside of the box. Her poems “burn” with particular societal vices (guilt, envy, regret, and indecision) while “dodging” with a formal playfulness. . . . Her words are beautiful, and if given the attention, could offer lifetimes of unearthing.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Burn and Dodge is large, and large. The poetry is not only steeped in tradition; it resonates with the demands of form and topoi and thrilling poetic avatars everywhere you look. . . . the poetry engages us for a kind of fluent struggle, that of a virtuoso budding to top form. The reaching is pesky and almost prickly, and almost piratical, and purposed to the full, based as it is primarily on the topoi of doubling. . . . And so the stolen doubles and the same selves multiply self-repeatingly with such fierce measure of life despite it all, with such alarming and arriving word-sensation, that reading Dolin’s splendid large new book, however testing, can both take your breath and warm your some-of-a-truth soul.”

—Robert Mueller, excerpt, Jacket 37

ISBN-10: 0-8229-6005-2 ISBN-13: 978-0-8229-6005-8 120 pages; $14.00 http://www.upress.pitt.edu/BookDetails.aspx?bookId=35925 


Realm of the Possible

Four Way Books, 2004


“At one level, these poems provide the rich, patient narrative of a tapestry: Here is a woman weeping on the subway. Here are jeans hanging in the light and air of a foreign city. Here are chairs, coffee cups, fountains, and roasted almonds. But the strength of this book is that the tapestry changes to a living, hurtful theatre: the poems keep breaking their own elegant surface to reveal the shadows of loss and memory and fear. These fine poems pull the reader in—enchanting, disturbing, and consoling, all at the same time.”

—Eavan Boland

“Far-traveling in both interior and outer realms, Sharon Dolin’s poetry ranges from the exploration of love, loss, and mourning to the unexpected kinships of New York daily life, to the spiritual celebration of new motherhood. Realm of the Possible is a book of hard-won recognitions and sensuous praises: precise, moving, and replete with a life spoken fully, a world given name in all its parts.”

—Jane Hirshfield

“Sharon Dolin’s Realm of the Possible is an ars poetica that explores, in both theme and style, the boundaries of a free-floating potentiality grounded in relation . . . . [in poem after poem that] thrives on a precise and visually appealing mix of images in surprising, intense juxtaposition. . . . She values the interconnectedness between the plainspoken and the sacred as she comfortably draws from the Torah, the Wisdom Literature, and from Jewish liturgy. . . . While integrating an impressive range of styles and poetic cultures, Dolin challenges the reader to enjoy the ephemeral questions.”

—Barrow Street, excerpt

“[T]he core of her book flares out in the second section . . . because this is where the poems begin to talk to each other.  . . . We begin and end the collection with new life, but here the book takes shape as a process of burial. . . . They [the poems] move from lyric grief to the taking on of masks to a Plath-like confessional passion that feels fresh.”


ISBN: 1-884800-57-2
86 pages; $14.95
Four Way Books

Serious Pink

Marsh Hawk Press, 2015 reissue, 2003


Serious Pink is playful, high-spirited, and deeply serious, and in it Sharon Dolin has done a seemingly impossible thing: her poems have the presence of paintings, a vivid materiality. Her fields of color vibrate . . . and the language of which they are made involves us in a deeply individual, engaging sensibility.”
Mark Doty

“These cool, beautiful, intelligent lyrics take seeing (and especially seeing paintings) as metaphor for everything else: mistakes, regrets, betrayal, despair; and finally are, I think, almost more like paintings than poems-paintings that, as Howard Hodgkin says about the pictures he longs to make, ‘will speak for themselves.’”
Jean Valentine

“Sharon Dolin’s Serious Pink is a series of ecstatic ekphrastics, a collaboration with and celebration of visual art. Dolin steps into each painting she references, first obsessed with image and pose, then leaps beyond the frame to enlarge her quirky narratives. . . . A dazzling, sensuous, and serious book.”
Denise Duhamel

Serious Pink is fascinating in that it both brings certain paintings to life in words and inspires the reader to try and see the originals.”—American Book Reviewexcerpt

“[T]he poems don’t try for some verbal analogue to painterly abstraction. Instead, they celebrate opportunities for collaborative inspiration. . . Serious Pink is an important book, especially for those interested in the ongoing relationship and interplay between the visual and verbal arts.”
Poetry International, excerpt

“Serious Pink’s poems arise organically from the arbitrariness of their starting points to transcend their initial constraints. By doing so, they are freed into poems capable of offering visual delight to the ears as much as the eyes—yet another proof of how Love defies categories.”
Jacket 23, excerpt

“Charles Wright says that great poetry contains profondo notes that swell.  Sharon Dolin’s ekphrastic meditations on the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell, and Howard Hodgkin, as well as an extended poem entitled ‘Ode to Color,’ are  just such notes.  Seeing the paintings is not necessary to appreciate each poem as a masterwork.”—Valparaiso Poetry Reviewexcerpt

“[T]his is a rich book, not difficult to enter, but difficult to resist rereading and experiencing, both for the feeling and the wit and the delight of the poetry, the language, the smarts, the consideration for the reader’s experience and also the richness and solidity of the poet’s experience as transformed into poems.”American Literary Review, excerpt


Full Online reviews

Jacket Magazine review by Eileen Tabios.
Valparaiso Poetry Review review by M. J. Bender.



ISBN: 0-9713332-6-2
72 pages; $18.00
Marsh Hawk Press

Heart Work

The Sheep Meadow Press, 1995


“Sharon Dolin has already earned exceptional distinction as a poet and is without question a writer whose work will help to define the resources and determinants of her generation.”
Robert Creeley

“The poems in this outstanding first collection are notable for their clarity, audacity and depth—compelling in their dramatic urgency and emotional power.”
Phillis Levin

“I cannot remember when I have read as original and moving an elegy as the one in this wonderful new book. In a time of self-conscious and muffled poems about love and death Heart Work is fresh, vivid, and raw.”
Lynn Emanuel

“The urgent, visceral images and rhythms draw us immediately into these poems.”
American Book Review, excerpt



ISBN: 1-878818-42-2
96 pages;$12.95
The Sheep Meadow Press

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