Arguably America’s greatest living poet, Sharon Olds enters her eightieth year with a book for our times: a book of fear, fragility and love of life. ‘At the time of have-not, I look at myself in this mirror,’ writes Olds in this self-scouring, exhilarating collection, which opens with a section of quarantine poems, followed by her ‘Amherst Balladz’, honouring Emily Dickinson – ‘she was our Girl – our Woman – / Man enough – for me’ – and leads to celebrations of lost friends and lovers: her childhood, young womanhood, and old age all mixed up together. She examines her white privilege, sees her mother ‘flushed and exalted at punishment time’, celebrates the human body, even in ageing, and looks with wonder at the natural world and how we’ve spoiled it.
Renowned for her poetry of searing honesty, sexual frankness and brave originality, Sharon Olds’ new book emerges ‘at the eleventh hour of the end of the world’, from the time of plague, this time of loss, where she can look at the world and her life and tell us plainly ‘love is the love of who we are, it is a form of knowing.’
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