This latest collection of poems by Sharon Olds is fittingly dedicated to "our daughter and son." Centered on the intense experiences of marital love and parenthood, the book can be read as a (yet unfinished) life-cycle story that begins with the poet narrator’s own conception, birth, and childhood bonds with mother and sister (Part 1). The overpowering awareness of her adolescent sexuality, romantic attachments, and the growth to womanhood, culminating in pregnancy--her daughter’s beginnings--are the subject of the poems in Part 2.

Part 3 describes the birth of her daughter and son, and the deep love and anxieties of parenting, expressed in the small details of daily life and child care. The short Part 4 is a celebration of married love, both erotic and transcendent, and of the powerful emotional connections which are the "wellspring" of human lives--that spawn the children we bring into the world and that help us to love and care for them as well.


Although this collection is most satisfying when read as a whole, many of the poems can be appreciated and discussed individually. In "The Planned Child" the poet writes, "I hated the fact that they had planned me . . . I would have / liked to have been conceived in heat, / in haste, by mistake, in love, in sex . . . " but then she realizes that "the earth was not enough for her [mother] without me in it."

About Mrs. Krikorian, her sixth grade teacher, Olds says "She saved me . . . And who had saved Mrs. Krikorian? / When the Turks came across Armenia, / who . . . mailed her to America?" Writing about her own sexuality-- "It became the deep spring of my life, / I didn’t know if it was a sickness or a gift." ("The Source")

Olds can worry over a sick child with humor, as in "History of Medicine": "ampicillin, ipecac, St. / Joseph’s . . .we made / one being, the bottle and the child and I . . . . " or, with fear for a feverish child: ""Don’t leave him drooling in his cereal. And yet / if that’s the only way we can have him-- / please let us have him--." ("Prayer During That Time") The final poem, "True Love," describes marital intimacy and its primordial connection with family life: " . . . when we get up / after making love, we look at each other in / complete friendship . . . Bound to each other / like mountaineers coming down from a mountain, / bound with the tie of the delivery room . . . we are bound to each other / with huge invisible threads . . . . "



Place Published

New York