‘Interspersed with acts of breathtaking linguistic daring.’
Charlotte Mendelson, Observer Book of the Year
Opening with a powerful and tender ‘Ode to the Hymen’, Sharon Olds uses this age-old poetic form to address many aspects of herself, in a collection that is centred around the female body and female pleasures, and touches along the way on parts of her own story which will be familiar from earlier works, each episode and memory now burnished by the wisdom and grace of looking back. In such poems as ‘Ode to My Sister’, ‘Ode of Broken Loyalty’, ‘Ode to My Whiteness’, ‘Blow Job Ode’, ‘Ode to the Last 38 Trees in New York City Visible from This Window’, Olds treats us to an intimate self-examination that, like all her work, is universal and by turns searing and charming in its honesty. From the early bodily joys and sorrows of her girlhood to the recent deaths of those dearest to her – the ‘Sheffield Mountain Ode’ for Galway Kinnell is one of the most stunning pieces here – Olds shapes her world in language that is startlingly fresh, profound in its conclusions, and life-giving for the reader.