A stunningly poignant sequence of poems tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory, and new freedom. In this wise and intimate telling-which carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending-Sharon Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love's sight; the surprising physical passion that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband's smile to the set of his hip. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and now loves another woman. As she writes in the remarkable ""Stag's Leap,"" ""When anyone escapes, my heart / leaps up. Even when it's I who am escaped from, / I am half on the side of the leaver."" Olds's propulsive poetic line and the magic of her imagery are as lively as ever, and there is a new range to the music-sometimes headlong, sometimes contemplative and deep.
No contemporary poet writes better about love and passion than Olds. In her 12th collection (following One Secret Thing), she documents the unraveling of her marriage, offering poems that are careful dissections without being maudlin. Here, for instance, is how she defines love after divorce: "when I thought/ we were joined not for breath's time,/ but for the long continuance,/ the hard sweets of femur and stone." Whether she's talking about the last time she and her husband slept together, finding a photo of her husband's lover in the dryer, or how she took up newspaper reading in his honor, these poems are intense, mourning as much as recording the break. Occasionally, Olds drops a clunky line or, as in the poem "The Red Sea," incorporates a double list of vocabulary words. But on the whole the collection is stunning and reads almost like a poetic novel until you reach the poem where Old announces, "my old/ love for him, like a songbird's rib cage picked clean." VERDICT Beautiful, well-crafted poems that map the end of a marriage; the poet's talent and wisdom are on display in poems that arrow to the heart over a route that is word- and image-rich.-Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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September 04, 2012
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