... soars with a subtle, sublime music ... Olds displays a range of voices here, from indomitable to vulnerable. The work is most surprising when exquisite melodies combine with flashes of new understanding ... [Olds] is flirtatious, outlandish, deeply serious ... a phenomenal achievement, the most moving collection of her career, the most open of books ... Olds writes to find out what she thinks. She is ingenuous and wise and there is no way of knowing where she is going before she gets there ... This is not poetry as revenge – Olds’s compassion, evident in so much of what she writes, wins the day ... There is a wonderful poem about not wearing makeup. Her poems – naked and true – do not wear makeup either. Yet in spite of her disregard for convention, Olds has the keenest poetic boundaries.
... in her newest book, Olds puts her honest, clear verse to work mostly outside of the body, and looks instead at the body politic, at the social body we have created or destroyed together. Here, by looking at the miseries that sometimes threaten to overwhelm, Olds has turned confession into powerful denunciation ... she engages with more joy, more strength, more faith, perhaps, than in earlier collections. There is a sense of lightness here, of play, of being carefree in the world that is being declared, or rather shared ... Sure, Olds screams sometimes, but she does it without forgetting she’s a poet and, in the end, won’t we admit the things she has been screaming about feel more like truth every day? Her verse a Cassiopeia of early horoscopes and long sight, catching us, foreshadowing us (our mistakes, our dumb moves, she is looking at women, but in the context of their broader, changing, society) in, perhaps, the way that only the wisest among our literary mothers always have.
... soars with a subtle, sublime music ... Olds displays a range of voices here, from indomitable to vulnerable. The work is most surprising when exquisite melodies combine with flashes of new understanding.
If a book of poetry can unsimplify—can add tangles, grit, and tangents to the way we think and feel—Arias is that book ... children, including Trayvon Martin, Etan Patz, Olds’ own firstborn, are introduced in the book to bring the immensity of the world’s hurt to an intimate human level, not only to personalize it but also to concentrate it and to find its odd joys. Arias offers hard-earned comfort well worth the effort.
... here the cumulative effect is not one of expansiveness but of an almost suffocating repetition. Olds not only recycles the strategies of earlier books—the headlong descriptions, the leaps from the minute to the cosmic, the intimation that the speaker is constantly on the cusp of some piercing revelation—she also draws from the same old well of ideas and scenarios, sometimes in ways so unvaried she risks self-plagiarism ... Tedious repetition may not be new or always unintended in Olds’s oeuvre, but it’s never been this overpoweringly pervasive ... There’s nothing more tiresome than half-baked astonishment, though, and in Arias, Olds frequently bogs down would-be rhapsodic passages with clunky metaphors and pseudo-wisdom ... Every once in a while, her lavish gifts as a storyteller come to the rescue, reminding us how cuttingly funny she can be when she lands on a juicy anecdote...But at other times her subject matter seems only cursorily thought through, and the consequences are most cringe-inducing in a handful of politically tinged poems in the book’s opening section ... If Arias counts as one of Olds’s most disappointing collections, it’s partly because it follows two of her finest ... For a poet who has so often been caught between a hankering for profusion and the limitations of her own autobiographical material, it makes sense that when her art falters, it would do so at the intersection of too much and not enough.
Sharon Olds’s twelfth book...is called Arias, and with good reason. Her poems have always been driven by her own unmistakable voice, wry, tragic, funny, colloquial, dramatic, intimate, intense, touching all the highs and lows of human experience—birth, sex, death and everything in between. Like many (most? all?) of her poems, 'My Father’s Whiteness' melds the personal and the political ... 'XYZ Aria' is sparer and more elegiac. Here Olds manages, in twenty short lines, to evoke her dead parents, her own aging, global warming, and poetry—the language her parents, for all their faults, gave her.
It’s no surprise that Olds’s 15th collection, Arias is rich with its own music, gaining momentum through an accumulation of 'songs,' each with its own distinct rhythms and considerations ... In poems that confront the greatest issues plaguing our society today, Olds presents unflinching visions of personal and public violence, political dissent, and the media, showing readers how the world’s images inform our own personal refrains ... Whether addressing close friends or imagined strangers, Olds treats her subjects with palpable compassion ... The poems in Arias demonstrate a keen and moral awareness that it is in our power to magnify or lessen suffering on our planet ... Olds offers gripping, vivid songs that urgently capture the preciousness of what there remains on Earth to defend, and all that has been lost ... In the complex, nourishing poems of Arias, the stakes are clear: if we are on Earth, we ought to be singing.