One Secret Thing
By Sharon Olds
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307269928, 112pp.)
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Categories: American - General
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In One Secret Thing, her ninth collection, Sharon Olds completes her cycle of family poems.
The book opens with a poem in twelve parts, which focuses on fearsome images of war. This vision of strife between nations is followed by indelible new poems of conflict within a family. Here are poems of home in which anger, joy, danger, and desire sing together with lyric energy—sometimes comic, sometimes with unblinking forgiveness.
The collection in its entirety is intense and harmonic, moving from minor key to major to minor, and it is rich with a level of self-awareness and irony new in Olds’s work. One Secret Thing is a double portrait, of a child and a difficult parent. As the book unfolds, the portrait of the mother goes through a moving revisioning.
One Secret Thing culminates in a series of elegies of hard-won mourning. Throughout, the poems are shot through with Olds’s characteristic passion, zany imagination, and poetic power.
Sharon Olds was born in 1942 in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. She was the New York State Poet Laureate from 1998 to 2000. She teaches poetry workshops in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and was one of the founders of the NYU workshop program at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York. Her work has received the Harriet Monroe Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets, and the San Francisco Poetry Center Award. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.