About this Item
Quantity Available: 1
Title: Blood, Tin, Straw
Publisher: Westminister, Maryland, U.S.A.: Alfred a Knopf Inc
Publication Date: 1999
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Edition: 1st Edition
About this title
Winner of the 2000 Paterson Poetry Prize
"She has written without embarrassment or apology, with remarkable passion and savagery and nerve, poems about family and family pathology, early erotic fascination, and sexual life inside marriage."
Sharon Olds divides this new book into five sections--"Blood," "Tin," "Straw," "Fire," and "Light"--each made up of fourteen poems whose dominant imagery is drawn from one of these
elements. The poems are rooted in different moments of an ordinary life and weave back and forth in time. Each section suggests the progression of the making of a soul cleansed by blood, forged by fire, suffused by light. Unafraid to confront the ecstatic or the brutal side of a woman's experience, Sharon Olds transforms her subjects with an alchemist's art, using language that is alternately casual and startling, fierce and transcendent.
This is an intensely moving collection by one of our finest poets.
In such previous collections as The Gold Cell and The Dead and the Living, Sharon Olds tends to draw her impetus from the sexual landscape. The same might be said of the poems in Blood, Tin, Straw. Here, however, the libido is less invariably at center stage. Instead, Olds embraces her favorite subject--the body--in many different guises: as an object of love, desire, reproduction, and decay.
At its best, Blood, Tin, Straw captures effervescent moments with delectable poignancy. In "The Necklace," for example, the narrator recalls a falling strand of pearls that "spoke in oyster Braille on my chest." (She likens the pearls to the snake in the Garden of Eden, yet this beaded serpent seems more intimately related to her own family romance.) And in "My Father's Diary"--itself a strange precursor to the poems in The Father--Olds identifies the chronicle of a life with its departed creator:
My father dead, who had left meStill, Olds has a tendency to trip over her own misspent innuendo. One poem in particular, "Coming of Age, 1966," collapses under the weight of a fabricated personal nostalgia, as the poet conflates her own writer's block with Nick Ut's famous photograph of a napalmed Vietnamese girl: "Every time / I tried to write of the body's gifts, / the child with her clothes burned off by napalm / ran into the poem screaming." Olds pins the blame for this atrocity (and for her writer's block!) on Lyndon Johnson. Yet the photo dates from 1972, which lets LBJ off the hook and points the finger at Richard Nixon. It may seem ludicrous to condemn a poem for being factually incorrect. However, the entire argument here is predicated upon Johnson's culpability in delaying the narrator's "entrance into the erotic." Offensive and overwrought, "Coming of Age, 1966" exemplifies Olds's worst poetic impulses. She does, it should be said, retain much of her appeal in Blood, Tin, Straw. Yet there's still a sense that she's substituting a tried-and-true trademark for her customary, earnest ease. --Ryan Kuykendall
these small structures of his young brain--
he wanted me to know him, he wanted
someone to know him.
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