So, I’m not sure why, but I have not been able to get enough poetry as of late. I feel like I spend most days at work figuring out which book of poetry I’ll read next. Now mind you, I don’t like flowery poetry that I have to turn my brain inside out attempting to figure out what the string of words mean when put all together. I like it to be right out there in front of me, screaming.
All of that is to say I am reading A LOT of poetry right now. However, in my mind, one collection of poems currently shines above the rest. Sharon Olds won the Pulitzer with her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap. Her newest collection is entitled Odes. Olds uses this old form of a poem to celebrate all parts of herself and female sexuality. I can’t stress enough how excited I was to get home every night and read some of these poems. I could have plowed through the book in one sitting, but I opted to savor every single one, only allowing myself–at most–five poems at a time. The subject matter of the poems ranges from the purely sexual to the everyday mundane: “Blow Job Ode”, “Ode to the Clitoris,” “Hip Replacement Ode,” “My Mother’s Flashlight Ode,” “Real Estate Ode,” & “Ode to the Last Thirty-Eight Trees in New York City Visible from This Window”. The imagery conjured by these poems is at once brilliant and so obvious, at least once Olds has put it in front of you. Many times I found myself asking in my mind “Why haven’t I ever thought of that before?” These are beautiful and brilliant in their simplicity. Get in this mix guys.
hankies with a pastoral scene in one corner.
There was a lot we were not allowed to do,
but what we were allowed to do was ours,
dolls you carry by the leg, and dolls’
clothes you would put on , or take off–
someone who was yours, who did not
have the rights of her own nakedness,
and who had a smooth body, with its
untouchable place, which you would never touch, even on her,
dimples, and though you were not supposed to, you could
bite off the ends of the fingers when you could not stand it.
And though you’d never be allowed to, say, drive a bus,
or do anything that had to be done right, there was a
teeny carton, in you, of eggs
so minute they were invisible.
And there you would be milk, in you, too–real
milk! And you could wear a skirt, you could
be a bellflower–up under its
cone the complex shape like a closed
buckle, intricate groove and tongue,
where something like God’s power over you lived. And it turned out
you shared some things with boys–
the alphabet was not just theirs–
and you could make forays over into their territory,
you could have what you could have because it was yours,
and a little of what was theirs, because
you took it. Much later, you’d have to give things
up, too, to make it fair–long
hair, skirts, even breasts, a pair
of raspberry-colored pumps which a friend
wanted to put on, if they would fit his foot, and they did.