The atom bomb, Breaking Bad, Rasputin, the cervix, her mother's return from the dead: the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Olds once again takes up subject matter that is both difficult and ordinary, elusive and everywhere.
... 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.