Poetry News

Washington Post Reveals Olds, Youn, and Merwin's Mastery

By Harriet Staff


Washington Post's Elizabeth Lund reviews new books by recent award winners and long-listers Sharon Olds, Monica Youn, and W.S. Merwin. Lund starts out with Sharon Olds's Odes which, she writes, "demonstrates the candor and clarity that have defined her work over the past four decades." More:

Odes, by Sharon Olds (Knopf), demonstrates the candor and clarity that have defined her work over the past four decades and allowed her to help other poets find their voices, as the Academy of American Poets noted last week when she received the $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award. In these pages, her 13th collection, 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. Other pieces display tenderness toward poet friends or the earth. Perhaps most surprising — or illuminating — are the moments when the speaker reveals what sex or freedom means to her. At the end of “Ode to Whiskers,” she says, “my heart/ is my body, the price of a kiss is your life.” In “Ode of Broken Loyalty,” she recalls how freeing herself from her family and becoming “shunned and shunning” allowed her to write about anything.

Continue at Washington Post.