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Blood, Tin, Straw: Poems [Kindle Edition]

Sharon Olds
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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."
--Amy Hempel

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.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 me
these small structures of his young brain--
he wanted me to know him, he wanted
someone to know him.
Still, 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

From Publishers Weekly

This sixth collection from Olds (Satan Says) revisits the obsessive roles and disturbing bodily images that have become her trademarks: she presents herself once again as lover, mother, daughter and voyeur. Olds certainly has a flair for diction, whether describing the aftermath of protected sex ("gore condom in the toilet a moment/ like a sea pet in its bowl, the eel/ taking our unconceived out to the open ocean") or the act of childbirth: "in the crush/ between the babies' skull-plates and the skin/ of the birth-gates, I wanted the symphesis/ more cherished." Anecdotes meant to shock abound. One poem records oral fixations: "I want to suck/ sweet, hot milk, with the salt/ silk of the human woman along/ my cheek." Another outlines death wishes: "I wanted to be/ fucked blind, battered half dead with it." One at a time, these scenes can be arresting; one after another, they make parts of the book as tiresomely, disappointingly repetitive as a sex therapist's case notes. Olds's arrangement of her work into five sections of fourteen poems each (the three title elements, plus "Fire" and "Light") does nothing to counter the book's overall sameness. Though she anticipates charges of narcissism with the poem "Take the I Out," Olds's descriptions of other victims can seem tactless, even predatory-a girl burned by napalm flings her "arms/ out to the sides, like a plucked heron"; the ill-fated crew of the space shuttle Challenger becomes a "burning jigsaw puzzle of flesh." Olds still suceeds, though, when she attends to her own body, where her skills continue to make her, as she writes, "a message conveyor,/ a flesh Morse." (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1052 KB
  • Print Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (December 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A5MREJS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,110,250 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
(10)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharon's journey January 28, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Oh, I already hear the complaint: Sharon is still writing about the same subjects!--as if subject can suddenly be exhausted or moved away from! But there is motion in this book--evidenced by its pieced together title: The poet is doing something deliberate and strange by approaching aspects of her poems through both internal and external foci. What makes Sharon Olds worth reading--whether its a finished poem or her grocery list--is this: she does not seek to recreate her own experience for the reader but rather describe her own personal moment of revelation in the trust that the revelation itself is transcendent--that is to say, perhaps, she trusts the experience more than her capacity to share it--in this she is a mystic, a profoundly religious poet, not in the tradition of confessional poets or American poets, but in the tradition of St. Theresa, of Rumi, of Lalla...
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not just carbon based May 21, 2001
Format:Paperback
The words of Olds' poems in this book encompass such daring, personal subjects that I was left stunned. Who else but Sharon Olds could make a beautiful poem about watching menstrual blood flow into the toilet by comparing it to ballet dancers? Who else would push the enevelope of public disgust enough to compare vaginal secretion and diamonds? She speaks and glorifies the unmentionable and ugly. In this way, she truly remakes the female body as she writes of it. The experience of reading Olds is not just intellectual; it is a visceral enlightenment.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharon Olds, the double, double dare of poets April 10, 2000
Format:Paperback
This book of poetry is unique both in style and content. I am reminded of a statement made by Sharon Olds in a reading of hers that I attended where she was talked about her surprise when another poet revealed to her that the events in one of his poems never occurred. When he turned it around and asked if everything she wrote about came from personal experience, she response was, "Well, of course, always." However, it isn't simply the fact that she writes from her life's experience, because that can be said of many of the poets writing today. It is the honesty and the revelation wrought from her experiences that make her work like a four dimensional object, where one is not expecting the angle that one gets as the object turns.
There is also another kind of surprise that occurs in almost every poem. It is an undercurrent of violence, violence intimated, violence implied, violence thought, and violence that has occurred. And yet, the violence in Olds' work does not quite meet our expectations, which have been shaped and pounded by a deluge of film, news and docudrama. Olds doesn't seem to want to shock us, because she makes us believe that there is only one sensible conclusion. She accomplishes this by the depth and originality of each argument. There is such a purity of revelation behind each statement that the reader finds himself spellbound by the rationale, and privileged to find himself a new member of her sublime revolution.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharon Olds, the double, double dare of poets April 10, 2000
Format:Paperback
This book of poetry is unique both in style and content. I am reminded of a statement made by Sharon Olds in a reading of hers that I attended where she was talked about her surprise when another poet revealed to her that the events in one of his poems never occurred. When he turned it around and asked if everything she wrote about came from personal experience, she response was, "Well, of course, always." However, it isn't simply the fact that she writes from her life's experience, because that can be said of many of the poets writing today. It is the honesty and the revelation wrought from her experiences that make her work like a four dimensional object, where one is not expecting the angle that one gets as the object turns.
There is also another kind of surprise that occurs in almost every poem. It is an undercurrent of violence, violence intimated, violence implied, violence thought, and violence that has occurred. And yet, the violence in Olds' work does not quite meet our expectations, which have been shaped and pounded by a deluge of film, news and docudrama. Olds doesn't seem to want to shock us, because she makes us believe that there is only one sensible conclusion. She accomplishes this by the depth and originality of each argument. There is such a purity of revelation behind each statement that the reader finds himself spellbound by the rationale, and privileged to find himself a new member of her sublime revolution.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 14, 2014
Format:Paperback
Hot and wonderful. Exceptional poetry.
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