Blood, Tin, Straw: Poems

Sharon Olds, Author Knopf Publishing Group $16 (144p) ISBN 978-0-375-70735-3
This sixth collection from Olds (Satan Says) revisits the obsessive roles and disturbing bodily images that have become her trademarks: she presents herself once again as lover, mother, daughter and voyeur. Olds certainly has a flair for diction, whether describing the aftermath of protected sex (""gore condom in the toilet a moment/ like a sea pet in its bowl, the eel/ taking our unconceived out to the open ocean"") or the act of childbirth: ""in the crush/ between the babies' skull-plates and the skin/ of the birth-gates, I wanted the symphesis/ more cherished."" Anecdotes meant to shock abound. One poem records oral fixations: ""I want to suck/ sweet, hot milk, with the salt/ silk of the human woman along/ my cheek."" Another outlines death wishes: ""I wanted to be/ fucked blind, battered half dead with it."" One at a time, these scenes can be arresting; one after another, they make parts of the book as tiresomely, disappointingly repetitive as a sex therapist's case notes. Olds's arrangement of her work into five sections of fourteen poems each (the three title elements, plus ""Fire"" and ""Light"") does nothing to counter the book's overall sameness. Though she anticipates charges of narcissism with the poem ""Take the I Out,"" Olds's descriptions of other victims can seem tactless, even predatory-a girl burned by napalm flings her ""arms/ out to the sides, like a plucked heron""; the ill-fated crew of the space shuttle Challenger becomes a ""burning jigsaw puzzle of flesh."" Olds still suceeds, though, when she attends to her own body, where her skills continue to make her, as she writes, ""a message conveyor,/ a flesh Morse."" (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
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FORMATS
Hardcover - 125 pages - 978-0-375-40742-0
Open Ebook - 128 pages - 978-1-4090-0128-7
Paperback - 115 pages - 978-0-224-06089-9
Open Ebook - 144 pages - 978-0-307-55475-8
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