Knopf. Oct. 2022. 192p. ISBN 9780525656951. $30; pap. ISBN 9781524711610. $20. POETRY
Ranging from family to mortality to social justice, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Olds (Stag’s Leap) continues her laserlike attentiveness to the life around her life as she crisscrosses childhood, young adulthood, and contemporary times, particularly quarantine. “This morning when I woke up I had nothing,/ or I felt I had nothing, but I had something” she muses, and there are so many somethings in these relentlessly rich poems. Noting that “[my son] said I never/ told him anything about my family,” she renders up painful moments of her mother and father, while adding “Three times in my life have I felt in my heart that I had value,/ three little fish”—her children, including “our baby who could not make it.” Elsewhere, she recognizes that one partner will leave her and buries another. Whatever her griefs, she knows there are larger ones, that “we were born// of plenty, and ignorant of the fact.” Recalling George Floyd’s murder, she proclaims “May we eat the knowledge/ of suffering, may we eat the bitter/ waste of the false food we have/ fed others,” demonstrating a fine ability to express social outrage without turning to polemic. Other poems discuss friends and family in Dickinson-like verse or reconfigured ballads, and a section of elegies ends “Love is the love of who we are, it is a form of knowing.”
VERDICT A visceral collection with the “I” at its center blazing and brave; highly recommended.
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