"Deepstep" is book-length poem that draws heavily on fragmentation and repetition to convey its subject matter (blindness caused by syphilis in a smal"Deepstep" is book-length poem that draws heavily on fragmentation and repetition to convey its subject matter (blindness caused by syphilis in a small town in the South). The poem is viscerally uncomfortable, hypnotic, confusing, and compelling....more
Came back to this book again after having read some of it before. The intro is great, too; this passage blew me away:
"As memory required me to revisiCame back to this book again after having read some of it before. The intro is great, too; this passage blew me away:
"As memory required me to revisit the deaths of many of these men, I realized that I ran the danger of writing a collection in which death was a consequence of my "lifestyle." (I use quotes here, because I do not really understand the difference between a life and a lifestyle, aside from the fingerpointing. I am nevertheless happy to be accused of style.) Some who read or do not read this book will hold that opinion. But the truth was--is--that my life is a consequence of those deaths. My relationship with Scott was in part a failure of our understanding of the times. Our fear of knowing our own HIV status was one of the powerful forces that held us together and drove us apart: we saw each other alternately as the possibility of salvation and as the possible instrument of destruction. Because of this, we simultaneously loved and hated each other with a kind of emotional violence."...more
I was excited about buying this book, but I felt uncomfortable and/or annoyed while reading many of these poems (at a couple points, I actually exclaiI was excited about buying this book, but I felt uncomfortable and/or annoyed while reading many of these poems (at a couple points, I actually exclaimed, "OMG, shut UP"). But I'm glad I read them, because doing so made me think a LOT—about confessional poetry in general; about why I like the work of other contemporaries of Olds who've written about divorce (Robert Hass, Louise Glück), but I didn't like these poems; and also about how I want to handle tricky subjects in my own writing in the future.
Some of the poems in this collection were beautifully written; most of them flowed well overall. There were a few moments of grammatical license, but I've seen that in other work by Olds; there were the moments of random obscure language, but whatever. What REALLY bugged me was how—though Olds says she's describing a "fifty-fifty" marriage and split—many of the poems treated the ex-husband with condescension and dimunition, almost to the point of infantilizion ("you seemed / covered with her, like a child working with glue / who's young to be working with glue").
I know that retrospective condesencion is cathartic, is part of the recovery process—I expect to hear that type of language in conversation, or in, say, a blog post. But in a poem, I want the speaker to give her subjects/objects as much agency as she gives herself. This book is detailed (often, sexually so, which is, in my opinion, where the backdrop of condescension/dimunition becomes particularly icky) and full of pain—but it's also full of assessment, to the extent that almost every poem seems to me to slam shut....more