Cover image for Blood, tin, straw
Blood, tin, straw
Olds, Sharon.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 125 pages ; 22 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3565.L34 B58 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Sharon Olds has divided her new collection into five parts -- Blood, Tin, Straw, Fire, and Light -- each made up of 13 poems whose dominant imagery is animal, mineral, vegetable, fiery, and luminous. The poems weave back and forth in time, from her own birth and the births of her children, through adolescent sexual awakenings and terrors, to the knowledge of love and oneness in another. Never afraid to confront the hidden substance of a woman's nature, she recalls experiences in language that is alternately casually colloquial, startling in its ferocity, and transcendent in its joy. She loves the play of words and, more than ever, her poems almost demand to be read and savored aloud.This is a unique and powerful book that can only reinforce Sharon Olds' singular reputation.

Author Notes

Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco. She lives in New York City.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

If the body is the temple of the soul, then Olds is the priestess, and her poems are psalms in praise of sex, holy matrimony, and motherhood. Olds has always been a daring poet of the flesh, but now in her fifth book, a major work, she embraces the entire universe from its microscopic swirlings--tail-lashing sperm, the dividing of cells in a fertilized egg--to such cosmic spectacles as a blazing star or the volcanic shudders of the earth. Everything is eroticized. She sees galaxies in a sprinkling of sand on skin, the curve of a planet in the arc of an eye, and the whole of creation in the act of coitus. Lovers become so intimate, they inhabit each other's bodies, and Olds writes more forthrightly about women's sexuality--the hunger, blood, tensility, and heat of it--than any of her sister poets. This collection is poetry as memoir, mined from the very core of her being, and washed clean in the salt of the sea and of sweat, made sweet with mother's milk and honey, and blessed by the light that shines on each page from the entranced and grateful eyes of her readers. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

This sixth collection from Olds (Satan Says) revisits the obsessive roles and disturbing bodily images that have become her trademarks: she presents herself once again as lover, mother, daughter and voyeur. Olds certainly has a flair for diction, whether describing the aftermath of protected sex ("gore condom in the toilet a moment/ like a sea pet in its bowl, the eel/ taking our unconceived out to the open ocean") or the act of childbirth: "in the crush/ between the babies' skull-plates and the skin/ of the birth-gates, I wanted the symphesis/ more cherished." Anecdotes meant to shock abound. One poem records oral fixations: "I want to suck/ sweet, hot milk, with the salt/ silk of the human woman along/ my cheek." Another outlines death wishes: "I wanted to be/ fucked blind, battered half dead with it." One at a time, these scenes can be arresting; one after another, they make parts of the book as tiresomely, disappointingly repetitive as a sex therapist's case notes. Olds's arrangement of her work into five sections of fourteen poems each (the three title elements, plus "Fire" and "Light") does nothing to counter the book's overall sameness. Though she anticipates charges of narcissism with the poem "Take the I Out," Olds's descriptions of other victims can seem tactless, even predatory-a girl burned by napalm flings her "arms/ out to the sides, like a plucked heron"; the ill-fated crew of the space shuttle Challenger becomes a "burning jigsaw puzzle of flesh." Olds still suceeds, though, when she attends to her own body, where her skills continue to make her, as she writes, "a message conveyor,/ a flesh Morse." (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Olds enjoys the reputation of a phenomenon; her collections of poetry (from Satan Says onward) remain in print, discussed, and passed from hand to hand throughout the United States. Her sixth book is without doubt her strongest to date. Olds's trademark has long been her astonishing candor--about her body, her husband's body, her parents' bodies, sex before and during her marriage, fear, dread, death, and hope--and this quality is still firmly in place here, but she has added to it a new strength and lyricism of metaphor and image. In "The Lips," for instance, she playfully deploys Neoplatonic metaphysics in this paean to her husband's love: "...did he love me before/ he knew me, before I was born? Maybe/ his love drew me to earth, my head/ moved to the surface of my mother's body, and.../ I came toward him in her ribbons, through her favors." She has turned her gaze to the unearthly with touching results: "Without desire or rage/ I would watch that dust celestium as the pain/ on my matter died and turned to spirit/ and wandered the cloud world of home,/ the ashes of the earth." Olds may be relied upon to startle--she uses many words that cannot be reprinted here--but the shock she delivers is that of true poetry. For all poetry collections.--Graham Christian, formerly with Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Necklace At the worst of the depression, one moment in the office, suddenly, my necklace shifted, flowed across some high ribs and sank down along the top of one breast as if a creature had got into my shirt, yet I felt its will-lessness, caress of matter only, small whipper or snapper, milk or garter, just the vertebrae now, as if a stripped spine had taken its coccyx in its jaw around my throat -- s equator, and now stirred on the mortal plates.  And these were the pearls from my mother, as if she slithered along me to say, Come away from your gloom, your father, that garden is a grave, come away, come away -- as if some crumbs of her milquetoast, aged and polished to a gem hardness, spoke in oyster Braille on my chest near my own breast, suckler singing to suckler, anti-Circe my mother led me away from that trough with a light raking, over me, of her wiggly whip -- just one wobble along me, globe on her axis, chariot-wheel of morning. Excerpted from Blood, Tin, Straw by Sharon Olds All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

The Promisep. 3
The Giftp. 5
Animal Musicp. 6
The Defensep. 8
The New Strangerp. 10
Bacchanal in Memoryp. 12
After the Rape in Our Buildingp. 13
When It Comesp. 14
The Factorsp. 15
The Babysitterp. 17
Aspic and Buttermilkp. 18
Boulder Creekp. 19
Oncep. 21
Poem to the Readerp. 22
The Watchersp. 27
Know-Nothingp. 29
The Visionp. 31
The Makarisp. 32
The Necklacep. 34
Dear Heartp. 35
The Elopementp. 36
19p. 38
The Seekerp. 40
The Day They Tied Me Upp. 41
Take the I Outp. 43
After Punishment Was Done with Mep. 44
Immersion Coilp. 46
What Is the Earth?p. 47
A Visionp. 51
The Soundp. 52
Mortal Eternalp. 53
Outdoor Showerp. 54
The Remedyp. 56
Leaving the Islandp. 57
At Homep. 59
The Bedp. 61
My Mother's Pansiesp. 63
The Prepositionsp. 64
Tousled Darlingp. 66
The Try-Outsp. 67
My Father's Diaryp. 69
By Earthp. 70
By Firep. 75
Warrior: 5th Gradep. 76
Fire Escapep. 78
Culture and Religionp. 80
1954p. 82
The Burned Diaryp. 84
Cool Breezep. 86
Coming of Age, 1966p. 85
For and Against Knowledgep. 90
To My Husbandp. 92
The Spouses Waking Up in the Hotel Mirrorp. 93
At the Hospital for the Paralyzedp. 95
You Kindlyp. 97
Where Will Love Go?p. 100
The Protestorp. 105
The Fallsp. 107
Thenp. 109
These Daysp. 111
Electricity Saviourp. 112
Ssshhp. 113
The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curbp. 115
The Talkersp. 116
Sometimesp. 118
First Thanksgivingp. 119
At the Bayp. 120
The Nativep. 121
The Shorep. 123
The Knowingp. 124