Reviews for Stag's Leap : Poems

Booklist Reviews 2012 August #1
*Starred Review* Olds, a poet of indomitable candor, has followed the arc of her life in her searing poetry collections (The Father, 1992; One Secret Thing, 2008). She has explored childhood traumas, sexual awakening, the blaze of love, and the bliss of marriage and motherhood in poems of shocking intimacy and stardust universality. In her tenth volume, she stoically chronicles the sudden end of her 30-year marriage. As always for Olds, the body is a living book on which passions and anguish are etched, and she translates the music of skin and the silence of bone into meticulously patterned, watertight poems. But she also looks beyond the human radius to chart the molecular webs that attach us to the sustaining elements of air, earth, water, and fire and to the solar system and cosmos beyond. Olds evokes haunted interiors, brooding seascapes, and an oddly emblematic label on a bottle of wine and raids science's linguistic storehouses. The more exacting and surprising her language and imagery, the more audaciously she parses her feelings, which swing from carefully reasoned empathy for her ex-husband to seething shame. These are threshed, rinsed, and polished poems of suffering and dignity, recognition and resignation, and freedom. And it this artistic victory over pain that makes Olds' work so potent. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 August #1

No contemporary poet writes better about love and passion than Olds. In her 12th collection (following One Secret Thing), she documents the unraveling of her marriage, offering poems that are careful dissections without being maudlin. Here, for instance, is how she defines love after divorce: "when I thought/ we were joined not for breath's time,/ but for the long continuance,/ the hard sweets of femur and stone." Whether she's talking about the last time she and her husband slept together, finding a photo of her husband's lover in the dryer, or how she took up newspaper reading in his honor, these poems are intense, mourning as much as recording the break. Occasionally, Olds drops a clunky line or, as in the poem "The Red Sea," incorporates a double list of vocabulary words. But on the whole the collection is stunning and reads almost like a poetic novel until you reach the poem where Old announces, "my old/ love for him, like a songbird's rib cage picked clean." VERDICT Beautiful, well-crafted poems that map the end of a marriage; the poet's talent and wisdom are on display in poems that arrow to the heart over a route that is word- and image-rich.--Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #3

Known for her unadorned, emotionally direct, sometimes sexually explicit free verse, Olds has amassed a large and loyal following over 30-odd years and 10 books. In her new collection every poem speaks to the collapse of a 30-year marriage, precipitated by the ex-husband's affair. Hence the memorable title: "The drawing on the label of our favorite red wine/ looks like my husband, casting himself off a/ cliff in his fervor to get free of me." Olds begins as the marriage is ending: "I want to ask my/ almost-no-longer husband what it's like to not/ love, but he doesn't not want to talk about it." Years later, he is a memory: Olds can "watch my idea of him pull away/ and stay, and pull away," like a kite. In between there are violently mixed feelings, erotic memories, loneliness, anger, and resolve in a book that takes its arc from the divorce, but its organization from the seasons, moving from winter to spring to "years later," and frequently looking back: "Maybe I'm half over who he/ was, but not who I thought he was, and not/ over the wound, sudden deathblow/ as if out of nowhere." (Sept.)

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