...[an] inspired new collection ... Her last collection, Stag’s Leap, won the 2013 TS Eliot prize and was, you might think, an impossible act to follow. But the spirit and flow of this new book suggests that, on the contrary, her earlier triumph has been a spur. She never censors herself: her subjects are those poetry ignores ... These odes, because they illuminate what it is to live inside a body and survive its outrages, are useful – and beautiful too.
...readers find the hallmarks of her distinctive and sometimes controversial work: sensual, explicit descriptions that convey the pleasures of the body, harrowing memories of a childhood marked by violence, a willingness to probe emotions that many others would avoid, and the ability to both shock and charm in a matter of lines. Fans and close readers will appreciate the depth and sensitivity in many of these poems, as when the speaker describes her own aging body or the decline and death of her mother.
Odes picks up where Stag’s Leap left off, which is to say that it contains some of the best and most ingenious poems of her career ... Ms. Olds renders the personal universal ... There is a good deal of lesser work in Odes. When Ms. Olds’s poems miss, they really miss, more so than most poets at her level ... The book’s warmth comes from the intensities of its language and the intensities that emerge from a life that seems well lived.
Odes confirms her as the reigning queen of confessional poetry. 'Ode' comes from the Greek aiedein (to sing or chant), and Olds sings her poems with dignity and humor, making a direct address to anatomy, expressing her uncensored delight in the body ... With an unflinching eye and a brazen gift for metaphor, Olds takes us on a tour of our bodies and behaviors ... Olds uncovers shame in order to dismantle it; she subverts cultural norms while illuminating the truth of our vulnerability and aging. Her work has always claimed sexuality as both natural and sacred. Now Odes merges the personal with the political to offer hope in a dark time.