Sharon Olds completes her cycle of family poems in a book at once intense and harmonic, playful with language, and rich with a new self-awareness and sense of irony.
The opening poem, with its sequence of fearsome images of war, serves as a prelude to poems of home in which humour, anger, and compassion sing together with lyric energy – sometimes comic, sometimes filled with a kind of unblinking forgiveness. These songs of joy and danger – public and private – illuminate one another. As the book unfolds, the portrait of the mother goes through a moving revision, leading us to a final series of elegies of hard-won mourning. One Secret Thing is charged throughout with Sharon Olds’s characteristic passion, imagination, and poetic power.