One Secret Thing

Sharon Olds, Author . Knopf $25 (98p) ISBN 978-0-307-26992-8 ISBN 978-0-375-71177-0

The ninth outing from Olds (Blood, Tin, Straw ) should again please the many admirers of her raw, vivid and often explicit poems, but might surprise few of them—until the end. As in all her books, Olds works in a demotic free verse, driven by rough enjambments and shocking comparisons: she devotes much of her energy (three of five sections here) to sex, remembered pain and parenthood—the dramatic, abusive household in which she grew up and her tender relationship with her own daughter. Olds depicts the traumas of her first decades with undeniable, if occasionally cartoonish, force: “When I think of people who kill and eat people,/ I think of how lonely my mother was.” Olds can also offer high-volume poetry of public protest, as in the set of sonnet-sized poems against war with which the book begins. What seems new here are Olds’s reactions to her mother’s last years, and to her mother’s death. On an antidepressant, briefly “adorable,” and then in failing health, “my mother sounds like me,/ the way I sound to myself—one/ who doesn’t know, who fails and hopes.” Both the failures and the hopes find here a voice that takes them seriously. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/21/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Paperback - 87 pages - 978-0-224-08784-1
Hardcover - 98 pages - 978-0-307-26992-8
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-4070-5344-8
Open Ebook - 102 pages - 978-0-307-80437-2
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