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The Unswept Room Paperback – September 24, 2002


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The Unswept Room + The Father + Stag's Leap: Poems
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375709983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375709982
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From her debut Satan Says (1980) through Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), Olds has tackled child sexual abuse and grownup women's sexuality on a post-Freudian (some said post-feminist) canvas of love, hate, revenge. This seventh volume of verse offers Olds's regulars all they have come to expect: "blood skin and tongue," "glass, bone metal, flesh, and the family." Olds describes "the day my folks/ sashed me to a chair"; the day her speaker "slowly cut off [her] eyelashes"; her desire "to work off/ my father's and my sins"; a father's cross-dressing; the Virgin Mary's vulva ("the beauty of her lily"); birth-control practices and pro-choice politics; menopause (at 491/2); and memories of parturition: "there came that faint, almost sexual wail, and her/ whole body flushed rose." All these moments appear, as usual, in confidently effective free verse that leaves no reader behind. Olds's followers may be delighted, or simply surprised, as they find, midway through the volume, an increasing focus on happiness: poems such as "The Hour After" and "If, Someday" portray the great sex and the commitment the speaker shares with her male partner: "I love/ to not know/ what is my beloved/ and what is I." Another group of moving poems consider her pleasures as an empty-nest parent, sharing space or conversation with "nearly-grown children." Olds has never been thought technically innovative, and this collection will not convert detractors. It will, however, offer her many fans new work to chew on, presented with her usual intense honesty, along with "some fancies of crumbs/ from under love's table."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Olds returns here with a stronger, cleaner effort than she offered in her last collection, Blood, Tin, Straw. With the upheaval in her personal life somewhat sorted out, she now strives to clean out her proverbial closet, perhaps completing the chore suggested in the title. Organized like her previous works, this work begins with poems about her early life and then moves on to grade school, her marriage, and up to the present day. Throughout, Olds re-creates her life, building a scrapbook through words. Although many of her subjects (family, love, sex) stay the same, her tone has shifted from an angry questioning of fate to a passionate acceptance of her own mortality and the experiences she has had. Yet she also offers a darker world, previously hinted at in poems about her parents and more fully explored in her last work. Here she refines the effect, noting in the opening piece: "But I know/ that the dead, at the moment of death, do not go/ somewhere else, as if on vacation/ showing up in bathing suits,/ unwounded." Even as she strives for an understanding that has of yet alluded her, Olds seems to have found some peace as she ages: "The older I get, the more I feel/ almost beautiful." The same can be said for her words.
Rachel Collins, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "alimarben" on December 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Despite some readership's lack of comprehension for the genuis that is Sharon Olds, I am a believer in her as art and artist. I've seen her read (at Oklahoma State University) and was held in awe by her delivery and the new poems she read to the audience. I respect her as a poet, a woman, an artist, an honest voice to depict real-life horror. Poetry is not an artifact for a reader to condemn (or praise too highly). Just observe, open yourself to the experience, and be contently uncomfortably (or uncomfortably content) in the reactions churning within yourself.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lee Fredrickson on November 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm a guy, 62 years old, day job

as a herder-of-diesel mechanics

in a small shipyard. Voracious appetite

for poetry for the most recent few

years of my life.

Along now comes "The Unswept Room."

The cover art is worth the price

of the book. Inside is a voyage

that defines travel at it's apex.

I'm captured from the beginning with

Olds' fluidity, warmth, and, excuse the use

of a well-worn word in re: poetry,

her clarity.

It's not easy to penetrate the soul

of a man used for years to the

bending of wrenches.

The body of work in this book

set me up for just such a piercing.

Then early this morning, I got to

"April, New Hampshire."

Brought the salty fluid to bathe

my eyes, but none fell out.

A few pages on, "The Learner"

nailed me to wall.

I thought "The Red Queen" had taught

me more than one gender should know

about the other, from a scientific

line of sight.

Ms. Olds has taken this salty old codger

staightaway into her soul, her feminine soul.

I will be forever grateful.

Ladies--You may have kindred candles lit for you.

Gentlemen--You may learn from the light

of those candles.

Lee
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jessica on October 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
Strong, beautiful and breathtaking.
I didn't think Olds' work could get any stronger, but it does. Her sense of meter and her willingness to take the reader on a real leap of mind and heart are even more developed here than in her earlier work. A must-read for any poet or anyone who likes poetry.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Collin Kelley on July 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
I applaud Sharon Olds for not bowing to the literati's mandate that all poetry must rhyme, be a sonnet, a villanelle, pantoum. This is free verse at its finest. It may not subscribe to a "type" but it is lyrical and poetic just the same. Poetry is evolving and many of today's writers are moving away from the strict rhyme and meter. The poetry in The Unswept Room is some of Olds' finest work. After the brilliant and harrowing poetry about her abuse as a child, this volume finds a more settled Olds starting a new chapter in her life. Bravo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Laffel on September 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
I first encountered Sharon Olds as I was going through The New Yorker and came upon her poem, "The Father." I was hooked and taught it and other of her works to my A.P. English classes from that day on. Readable, teachable, reachable, explorable...wonderful. Ms. Olds is, along with Joe Pintauro, the modern poet to whom I keep returning. Cannot recommend her work highly enough. Brilliant.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jim Culbertson on October 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Sharon Olds' "The Unswept Room" is a 2002 National Book Award Finalist for Poetry. That alone makes the book worth paying attention to.
The National Book Foundation wrote "A new collection of poems from a distinguished poet, ranging from those erupting out of history and childhood, a new generation of children, the transformative power of marital love, and the shock when that love comes to an end."
If you enjoyed her previous poems, you will like this one too.
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