One Secret Thing
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One Secret Thing

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  251 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Sharon Olds completes her cycle of family poems in a book at once intense and harmonic, playful with language, and rich with a new self-awareness and sense of irony.

The opening poem, with its sequence of fearsome images of war, serves as a prelude to poems of home in which humor, anger, and compassion sing together with lyric energy—sometimes comic, sometimes filled with a...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Knopf (first published September 23rd 2008)
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Roger DeBlanck
The poems in this volume are as marvelous and eye-opening as any in Sharon Olds’s remarkable oeuvre. She revisits many of the themes and subjects that are focal to her work: dealing with adversity within the family and conflicts among parents and children. But this collection also includes a section on war, a twelve-part poem that blazes with alarming imagery. The most powerful pieces, however, appear in the final section. These concern the passing of Olds’s mother. In overcoming her lifelong di...more
Collin Kelley
Last night, Sharon Olds read from her new collection, One Secret Thing, at The Literary Center at the Margaret Mitchell House. It was a packed house, and I waited in line for an hour to get my copy signed. I also had the rare pleasure to observe a private reception where Olds talked to a dozen high school students about poetry. It was during this session that Olds read "I Go Back to May 1937," which, for me, is the equivalent of hearing Anne Sexton read "Her Kind." The students didn't get the gr...more
Kathleen
As a faithful reader of Sharon Olds, I wanted to read this one, for sure, and had read The Unswept Room not long before. Because One Secret Thing has that gripping intensity, I read it in spurts, and rested between. (I still must find Satan Says, her first book!)

This one moved into the "amazing" realm (5 stars here at Goodreads, though I am in the period of life when I tend not to judge, simply to enjoy, almost like Sharon Olds's mother on antidepressants...) in the last two sections of the book...more
Sibyl
Perhaps because Sharon Olds writes about powerful emotions, she arouses strong feelings in readers and critics.

I suspect that what she does is at odds with the poetic mainstream in the UK. She is not terribly interested in formal cleverness, in inviting us to look at the inadequacy of language or in ironic detachment.

This is also a secular country, and some of us are made to feel uneasy by her quasi-religious zeal, her spiritiual intensity, her Biblical vocabulary.

Which isn't to say that Olds do...more
Jenny Shipp
As many of you know, I am partially held by the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia's School of Medicine in NYC. No, I don't go to school there but I would love to. I get the podcasts from their grand rounds and read any books they recommend. It is all about changing the way I do my work. IT's all about story telling. I love it. SO, Sharon Olds was the guest speaker at a recent lecture and I was wowed. I guess her poem, The Death Of Marilyn Monroe, is rather revered in the Narrative Medicine...more
beauregard
When Our Firstborn Slept In

My breasts hardening with milk-little seeps
leaking into the folded husband
hankies set into the front curves
of the nursing harness-I would wander around
the quiet apartment when her nap would last a little
longer than usual. When she was awake, I was
purpose, I was a soft domestic
prowling of goodness-only when she slept
was I free to think the thoughts of one
in bondage. I had wanted to be someone-not just
someone's mom, but someone, some one.
Yet I know that this work that I...more
Joan Colby
The poems about war that lead into this collection are marvelous, but they are followed by Olds typical focus on herself and family. While her work is excellent in technique, the poems are often so intimate that they are off-putting, and sometimes echo with an unpleasant narcissism. What is interesting is that in earlier poems, Olds attacks her mother as a child abuser, yet in the later poems about her mother's death, she switches to an elegiac mode glorifying their relationship. Mother-daughter...more
Craig
Sharon Olds is one of the first poets that I truly fell in love with. It has been awhile since I have read one of her collections, so when I saw this in the poetry rack at the store, I had to pick it up. I definitely need to read her more often as I simply loved this book as I have her others.

I think it is more powerful if you have read her earlier volumes as it really is a book of coming-to-terms with family issues that have always been at the center of her writing (and I love the jab she gives...more
Mark Eleveld
Review by Mark Eleveld, published by the Chicago Sun Times 2009
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ONE SECRET THING By Sharon Olds
Random House, 112 pages, $26.95
Sharon Olds is one of the true contemporary matriarchs of poetry (even the Hollywood renegade and poetry lover Sean Penn has used her words). Her new collection, One Secret Thing, is rich in image, brazen in voice and overly giving at welcomed times. Laced with deep me
taphor, hard enjambments and her usual free verse, most of the sections (three out of five) give way...more
TinHouseBooks
Lauren Lederman (Editorial Intern, Tin House Books): I don’t reread books often, but recently I’ve been wanting more poetry in my life. I decided I’d revisit a collection I discovered a few years ago and fell in love with: One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds. Diving into this book again has reminded me how much I admire Olds’ ability to create incredibly vivid and intimate portraits of, among many things, a mother-daughter relationship. The collection tackles so many aspects of life and family and i...more
Erica Reichert
Sharon Olds' collections of poetry are always amazing, technically stellar, emotionally rich, and completely accessible. This collection is not quite as amazing as The Unswept Floor. The war poems are politically needed and right on target but leave something to be desired in execution. However, the poems chronicling the process undergone as she loses her mother are everything I could ever expect of such a masterful and seasoned poet. Truly amazing. All told, I still want to be Sharon Olds when...more
AC
The first section of this book, the War poems, is very stark and moving. The imagery is gripping and powerful. The rest of the collection is mostly about her life (childhood, adulthood, caring for and losing parents), while all touching topics, they somehow are not as engaging as the section on war. The only exception being the poem about the inmate on deathrow--not sure how that one slipped into her poems about her life--it has the strength of the poems about war from the first part of the book...more
Brian
This is a very powerful volume that tells the story of a mother-and-daughter relationship fraught with problems that reach a resolution of sorts (the last line of the last poem, about scattering her mother's ashes: "the birth of an exhausted holiday." Sharon Olds manages to achieve narrative and exquisite attention to emotional detail at the same time (and playfully beautiful phrasings: "...even as my mind is taking its/ seablind cartwheels back. ...").
Aimee
For me, the most powerful poems in this collection are the ones about letting go--of a young adult daughter, of a dying mother, of lifelong battles. Sharon Olds has been writing about her dysfunctional family of origin throughout her career, but these poems mark a dramatic shift that occurred during her mother's final illness, when forgiveness and compassion offered "my last chance / to free myself."
Judith
This is brutal poetry. Sharon Olds mother is a "Mommie Dearest" character, but who'd have thought to put it into poetry? Extremely beautiful and painful at the same time. Is there any more complex relationship than that of mother and child? I had to cringe in self-recognition at some of the scenes in the ongoing struggle to fix this bond once and forever.
Kimberly
I wondered if this book was almost too good. She is so smooth and perfect with the single-focus, surprise twist poem I began to wonder if she wasn't pushing herself far enough. But this is nice after Merwin because everything is so grounded in physical reality, and she can be really funny.
Donna
Sharon Olds is a wonderful poet and this book is no exception. It is particularly interesting when compared to earlier work. She has lost some of her anger and become much more thoughtful and philosophic in her work. I liked this book quite a bit.
Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets
Prepare for the 2010 Poets Forum in New York City (October 28-30) by reading Olds's newest book of poetry, and check out the Poets Forum 2010 bookshelf for the latest collections by each of the poets participating in the Poets Forum. Happy reading!
Kristin Bapst
I loved every poem ~ Sharon Olds's (sp/punctuation?) work never fails to be amazing. I was especially moved to tears by the poetry about her mother and her mother's passing. She is truly one of my favorite female poets of all time.
Kate Gale
Dear me, Sharon, you are such a good poet. The time to get over your parents. Age twenty-five. After that you have to blame yourself. Worth reading though. One poem about her back side I wasn't sure belonged.
Christina
Dec 12, 2010 Christina marked it as to-read
Deferring this one for a later time. A poetry book that begins with a section entitled "War" is just not what I want to be reading during the Christmas season. I couldn't get beyond the first two.
Rhonda
The poems about her mother's final illness and death were the most affecting - any one whose relationship with their mother is fraught with ambivalence would surely relate to these...
Stephanie
I loved this book! The first section didn't feel like a part of the book at first, but once i finished the final section, I understood it's purpose. Beautiful, telling, and sad.
SmarterLilac
Not my favorite Sharon Olds. Mostly retread. I'm glad this is allegedly the last book of family poems she will publish. Which means...it's the last book?
Lauren
Sharon Olds is one of my favorites. This wasn't my favorite collection, but the poems about her mother's decline stuck with me and still resonate.
Pete Faziani
This collection reeks of raw emotion and politics that have no place in poetry.
Samantha
She's great, but grizly. The war section is too rough to read through at one sitting.
Marilyn
This new book by Sharon Olds holds confident, richly textured poems, sure and strong.
Ingrid Keir
Olds is amazing. I loved reading this collection which revolves around her family.
Nina
Unabashedly. I don't care if she does the same thing over and over.
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Born in San Francisco on November 19, 1942, Sharon Olds earned a B.A. at Stanford University and a Ph.D. at Columbia University.

Her first collection of poems, Satan Says (1980), received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. Olds's following collection, The Dead & the Living (1983), received the Lamont Poetry Selection in 1983 and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Her other col...more
More about Sharon Olds...
The Dead and the Living The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series) Satan Says (Pitt Poetry Series) Stag's Leap: Poems The Wellspring

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