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The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)

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A new collection by the much praised poet whose second book THE DEAD AND THE LIVING, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.


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A new collection by the much praised poet whose second book THE DEAD AND THE LIVING, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

30 review for The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    I think "The Gold Cell" rests more comfortably in the 3.5 star space, but alas. Is this a great volume? Not to my mind. It is a quite good one, very solid in places, and stunning in a few. The thing is, just as it shines brightly in some moments, it falls entirely dull at others. I found the section on her father (the second?) to be particularly trying to work through. The book is broken into four parts: one outside of the biographical (?) narrator's vantage point; one directed to her father; on I think "The Gold Cell" rests more comfortably in the 3.5 star space, but alas. Is this a great volume? Not to my mind. It is a quite good one, very solid in places, and stunning in a few. The thing is, just as it shines brightly in some moments, it falls entirely dull at others. I found the section on her father (the second?) to be particularly trying to work through. The book is broken into four parts: one outside of the biographical (?) narrator's vantage point; one directed to her father; one to her lovers and concerning her sexuality; one regarding the experiences and sensations of motherhood. Knowing me--as you don't--and my unadulterated idolatry of poets like Plath and Sexton, this book should have floored me. As I said, when Olds is able to boil something down, she can be incredibly effective. See the poems "Cambridge Elegy," "The Girl," "Saturn," "The Quest," "Boy Out in the World," and "The Green Shirt." But at times, I find the criticism I've so often heard directed toward Olds--that she falls back on the crutch of shock-value when she's at a poem's weak space--to be justified. For all its humor, I simply cannot believe "The Pope's Penis" to be a great poem. A good one? Sure. A memorable one? Certainly. But for the life of me, I don't get why people blab on and on about that poem (or why I read that for a Modern Poetry course a couple of years ago) when they can look to her other more astonishingly written, deeply felt poems. Moreover, the wild cries of how groundbreaking her work's breaking of taboos is seem to me slightly misguided. She's certainly speaking of often-silenced topics, but she's not really the first. Had she published this book two decades earlier, she'd have broken that ground; but as it stands, see (I hate to bring them up again) Plath or Sexton on a number of these topics: father/daughter incest; sexual or emotional violence against women; female sexuality; abortion; eroticism; &co&co. She hasn't done it first, though I certainly appreciate that she carries the torch in many respects. I don't know how this turned into a pitchfork & torch review of the book. I did like it and certainly look forward to reading more Olds. So bottom line is this: the book is stunning at its best points and dreary at its worst. Other poems just get lost in the shuffle between the good and the bad. I'll be curious to pick up other books & see if they are more consistent in quality than this one was. I tend to agree with another reviewer here on GR--the poems are too often boring on the page even if exciting when read aloud. But ultimately, "Cambridge Elegy" is worth the price of admission alone.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    The renown of Sharon Olds’s work is partly due to her ability to have no inhibitions about bearing her soul, especially in regard to sharing the intimacies of her life, whether the subject is carnal love, the ecstasy of love, or the devotional love she has for her children. The other major appeal to her work is the brilliance of her style and language to probe the essence of her subject matter. In this collection, the catalyst for many of the poems focuses on confronting her childhood abuse at t The renown of Sharon Olds’s work is partly due to her ability to have no inhibitions about bearing her soul, especially in regard to sharing the intimacies of her life, whether the subject is carnal love, the ecstasy of love, or the devotional love she has for her children. The other major appeal to her work is the brilliance of her style and language to probe the essence of her subject matter. In this collection, the catalyst for many of the poems focuses on confronting her childhood abuse at the hands of her parents. The best pieces, however, capture the aching and tender love of a mother for her children. The Gold Cell is one of Olds's earlier books, and the poems exhibit her use of language in raw and beautiful form, paving the way for the more sensational and breathtaking wordplay she utilizes later in her career. Each of Olds’s books leaves you mesmerized. The Gold Cell is no different as it registers a definite impression of her greatness.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    There are so many great lines and so many classic poems in this book, it's like reading a best-of collection. Olds's talent is ridiculous, nearly unreachable in this collection. I read some of these poems and felt changed, like I was absorbing something that could barely fit into me.The pendulum here swings from anger and horror to beauty and love effortlessly, like life in real time. Favorite poems include "Summer Solstice, New York City," "The Girl," "I Go Back to May 1937," "Looking at My Fat There are so many great lines and so many classic poems in this book, it's like reading a best-of collection. Olds's talent is ridiculous, nearly unreachable in this collection. I read some of these poems and felt changed, like I was absorbing something that could barely fit into me.The pendulum here swings from anger and horror to beauty and love effortlessly, like life in real time. Favorite poems include "Summer Solstice, New York City," "The Girl," "I Go Back to May 1937," "Looking at My Father," "The Blue Dress," "The Month of June: 13 1/2" and seriously about twenty others. This is a mammoth wonder of a book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Today I'm not interested in perfection. I'm interested in truth, in viewpoints unconcerned with spin, in observations that have nothing to sell but a humanized reality. Oh, thank you, Sharon Olds. Your poetic ruminations -- of you facing your parents as the troubling creatures they were, of you watching your children as the trembling creations they are -- are like little electric jolts bringing me back to life, to consciousness. You reanimate the zombified mind and fix my eyes up with an overdue Today I'm not interested in perfection. I'm interested in truth, in viewpoints unconcerned with spin, in observations that have nothing to sell but a humanized reality. Oh, thank you, Sharon Olds. Your poetic ruminations -- of you facing your parents as the troubling creatures they were, of you watching your children as the trembling creations they are -- are like little electric jolts bringing me back to life, to consciousness. You reanimate the zombified mind and fix my eyes up with an overdue prescription.

  5. 4 out of 5

    km

    there was a girl in my poetry workshop years ago who wrote exactly like olds (minus the awkward references to a man's penis as his "sex") and i was so seethingly, silently jealous of her

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    I always feel like I'm reading her diary whenever I open up a book of Sharon Olds' poetry. A juicy, carefully written diary she's left open on my bedside table.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adam Stone

    You first see The Gold Cell through binoculars and press clippings. On the longest day of the year, a man is talked down from the roof of a building by concerned police officers. A woman confronts her own racism on a New York city subway. Paramedics save an abandoned baby. A man has a conjoined twin. A young girl survives rape but her friend does not. The stories are told as facts. No need for melodrama. The truth of the events is enough blood. "Outside The Operating Room Of The Sex Change Doctor You first see The Gold Cell through binoculars and press clippings. On the longest day of the year, a man is talked down from the roof of a building by concerned police officers. A woman confronts her own racism on a New York city subway. Paramedics save an abandoned baby. A man has a conjoined twin. A young girl survives rape but her friend does not. The stories are told as facts. No need for melodrama. The truth of the events is enough blood. "Outside The Operating Room Of The Sex Change Doctor" is sweet mango candy with a jalapeno center. It begins a trio of poems that I use in workshops and classes. "The Solution" which snakes around Sharon's (I don't know if it's ok to call her Sharon yet. There's still a distance here. Like she is someone you're standing in line at the post office, and you're both afraid it might close before you can send out your really important documents, and she just made a very funny joke, but you don't know if she made the joke for you or if you just happen to be standing near her while she makes the joke to herself.) "The Solution" snakes around Ms. Olds's projection for how to fix "the singles problem". (Is being single a problem? is not the address on the envelope she's affixing stamps to. It's for the people who want. It's for people who want to be wanted. It's for people who want in very specific ways that 1987 didn't know how to handle with their lack of Craigslist and farmer-themed dating websites.) "The Solution" snakes around Ms. Olds's view of American sex, and it plops us at the feet of her next poem "The Pope's Penis" where she grants...ahem...a weight to what's inside the Vatican leader's robes. She closes the first section with open arms, watching imaginary mother and imaginary daughter in bliss. This is the section I use in workshops and classes because sometimes a poet doesn't need to memoir and "I" to make poetry seem personal. Section 2 is her childhood. Her parents. Her how-do-I-forgive-the-loving-monsters-who-raised-me parents. She begins the section with "I Go Back To May, 1937" where she debates keeping her parents from falling in love so that they won't hurt each other. Then Polaroids of what was. Being held over a laundry chute to fix wires. Lies about presents. Driving up steep hills. Her mother's diet. All these innocent sounding things make for poems rooted with grief and regret but mostly love. (And now she is definitely Sharon, not Ms. Olds. You envy her forgiveness now. You wouldn't dare reassure her things will be alright, because you know that she understands more than you are capable of understanding. You would take back every negative thought you've had about your family except that her narrative is telling you no, you can forgive what you need to forgive, forget what you need to forget, but never feel your story isn't important. You feel that once Sharon is finished telling you about her parents, she will ask you about yours, and no matter the size of your fondness or grievances, she will listen and you will feel everything is...not right...not better...survivable...allowed.) In the third section Sharon leads us away from her past, into the garden of her first love, her first kiss, and her first sex before we arrive in her 1987 present. In "Premonition" she drives through a parking lot filled with children, terrified she will injure or kill one with her car. Then she drives her car into your sternum. She didn't turn on her blinkers. Her hard left against the red light leaves you sitting in your own car, terrified to move or not move. The final section introduces us to her children. She mentioned them in the third section but now we learn their names and watch them grow for a bit. Sharon is a thoughtful mother, but she also respects you. Each poem is a picture she takes out of her wallet to show you how she loves them. And, and this is unusual for doting parents, none of her photos look the same. It is not four headshots of a child dressed up and wearing identical forced smiles. Everything is candid. Everything shows she, and her children, and obviously everyone, is flawed. Love is flawed most of all. But worth it. You want to thank Sharon for talking to you. (Oh god, are we still snaking in a line at the post office? Is that sort of metaphor still happening? Because the window is closed and the lights are out. And you feel that maybe your letter wasn't important enough to mail, but you also feel that you already mailed it. Sharon gives you such conflicting feelings of accomplishment.) You want to thank Sharon for not talking down to you or thinking you needed her to explain her feelings. You want to thank her for leaving her thesaurus at home and just talking to you like a normal person. A person who maybe likes poetry or maybe likes interweaving flash fiction. You just want to thank her.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pascale

    I actively avoid reading poetry, perhaps because it annoys me that I imagine the Poet too well as she writes. The Poet is leaning back against a rock outcropping, a pen and notebook in hand, her eyes half-closed, and is taking in the magnificent views and the last few rays of sun on a fall afternoon. She is in communion with Nature. A gentle breeze caresses her long tresses, but her brow is unmarred by perspiration; her perfectly stylish retro taupe skirt and cream crepe blouse bought at name br I actively avoid reading poetry, perhaps because it annoys me that I imagine the Poet too well as she writes. The Poet is leaning back against a rock outcropping, a pen and notebook in hand, her eyes half-closed, and is taking in the magnificent views and the last few rays of sun on a fall afternoon. She is in communion with Nature. A gentle breeze caresses her long tresses, but her brow is unmarred by perspiration; her perfectly stylish retro taupe skirt and cream crepe blouse bought at name brand boutiques are barely wrinkled. Struck by inspiration, she starts writing, and the words flow urgently and effortlessly from her pen. She is nationally known and revered. She travels and likes to bring back mementos from her trips, such as the picturesque stone cottage she fell in love with on a trip to Wales, which she had dismantled stone by stone, shipped across the ocean, rebuilt and lovingly restored to its 19th century beauty, surrounded by a gorgeous English cottage garden of roses, peonies and delphiniums. People have trailed a path to her (rustic) door and have praised her exquisite taste, her comfortable and warm furnishings, the imported farm antiques whose simple, austere lines polished by time accentuate her surroundings like muted reminders of the Past. Articles have been written about her in magazines, with lavish spreads showing her carrying baskets of flowers in her arms, harvesting eggs from her henhouse, planning feasts for her visiting friends, or sitting, pensive, at her desk, reading letters or reviewing the manuscript to her latest anthology with her faithful golden retriever at her feet and a cat asleep on her lap. I resent the Poet because I am not she. This is why I don’t like and don’t read poetry: I imagine it mostly written within the very confines described above, as the self-indulgent musings of the elegant upper class who have too much time on their hands. I know that I am unfair about it, but that is my immediate reaction when facing the prospect of opening a Book of Poetry... Unlike the Poet, I don’t have the luxury to stop and enjoy what I see in my daily life, much less, to write about it. I run from one place to the next, and I live my life as if in a blur. I am often late to important appointments; I forget promises. I can’t find inspiration running after TriMet busses that take off the curb the minute they see me frantically waving at them. I don’t have the time to make dinner; we eat sandwiches. My yard is overrun with weeds. I feel as a failure as the days, months and years pass, and I can’t manage to put anything coherently together, to amount to anything. For instance, every year, I promise myself to look with purpose and intent at the tree peony at the side of the house, the one that is the first to bloom, to take in its extravagant red flowers big as dinner plates, to admire the silky texture and the delicate fragility of the petals. And, like every year, I forget to do it. When I finally make it into the garden, it’s invariably too late: as I stand looking at the faded mauve drooping mess, I know that, once again, I missed carrying out my personal resolution. And it doesn’t matter that the white tree peony is now in its full beauty, and after it, the pink one will unfold its own fragile petals: the only shrub I care about is the one with the red blooms. Nevertheless, Sharon Old’s poetry is not self-indulgent; it is sensitive, well written and descriptive. Old’s “The Gold Cell” is divided into sections that seem to reflect periods of her life, her relationships, in Part One, with the world around her as experienced in the present time, then, in Part Two, her childhood and relationship with her parents, in Part Three, growing up and womanhood, and in Part Four, her children. I particularly liked the poem “On the Subway” because of the implied tug-of-war between the poet and a young man sitting across from her on the train. Going beyond what may be perceived as just a reflection about an encounter in the subway, because of their different races and background, the poet ponders who has the power in the passenger-to-passenger relationship that is developing as they observe each other on the train. Is he in a position to take advantage of her by robbing her, or is she in fact taking advantage of him by enjoying privileges he obviously does not? Who is hunting whom, she seems to wonder. The poem ends without telling whether any exchange takes place between the two passengers, but the poet suggests that even if she were mugged, she would still have the upper hand and be the one taking advantage of someone else.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kiri Stewart

    I think this is widely considered to be one of Sharon Olds' best poetry collections, but I wonder if that is in part because it seems to lend itself much more to academic analysis than some of her other collections. Even her book previous to The Gold Cell, "The Dead and The Living," seemed much more open and personal without ever seeming pedestrian. The Gold Cell, at times, is considerably more explicit and personal, particularly as she writes about sex and intimacy, but at the same time it seem I think this is widely considered to be one of Sharon Olds' best poetry collections, but I wonder if that is in part because it seems to lend itself much more to academic analysis than some of her other collections. Even her book previous to The Gold Cell, "The Dead and The Living," seemed much more open and personal without ever seeming pedestrian. The Gold Cell, at times, is considerably more explicit and personal, particularly as she writes about sex and intimacy, but at the same time it seems to hold something back, or to mask it in careful poetics that may have otherwise been simply stated. I found this collection to be far more challenging to read than "Dead" or "The Wellspring," but it was not less enjoyable. The trilogy of poems 'First Boyfriend,' 'First Sex' and 'First Love' are astonishingly raw juxtapositions of the nature of relationships and growing up in a swirl of peak experiences and life-altering tragedy. The 'Cambridge Elegy' that follows these three poems is a powerful bow on the set, a poetically gift wrapped box of hard wisdom and wonder. The main focus of her poems throughout The Gold Cell is on the immediate family of her youth and her immediate family in adulthood. I'm still so struck at the way she writes about her children, and children in general, as perhaps simply small versions of adults with all the potentials and warning signs of what they will grow into already sprouting, always on the cusp of sexual awakening, animalistic but evolved, artless but keenly aware. Sharon Olds' confessional style is often criticized because it is so easy to do poorly, but over her long career she has proven herself to have mastery of a singular and resonant voice that I, for one, never tire of reading.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    Sometimes you read things and you wish you had read them earlier. Like, I'm not sure how I made it through an Oberlin education without some clove-smoking greasy-haired girl with a tongue stud shoving a book of Sharon Olds poems into my hands, but I did. But I'm glad I've read these poems now because they are stunning and complete and real, and they branch out and touch so many other parts of my life. The language in "On The Subway" reminds me of Kevin Sampsell's "I Love A Woman Who Eats Animals" Sometimes you read things and you wish you had read them earlier. Like, I'm not sure how I made it through an Oberlin education without some clove-smoking greasy-haired girl with a tongue stud shoving a book of Sharon Olds poems into my hands, but I did. But I'm glad I've read these poems now because they are stunning and complete and real, and they branch out and touch so many other parts of my life. The language in "On The Subway" reminds me of Kevin Sampsell's "I Love A Woman Who Eats Animals": "I am wearing old fur, the / whole skin of an animal taken and / used. I look at his raw face, / he looks at my dark coat, and I don't / know if I am in his power -- / he could take my coat so easily, my / briefcase, my life -- / or if he is in my power, the way I am / living off his life, eating the steak / he may not be eating, as if I am taking / the food from his mouth." The violence in "The Girl" reminds me of Daphne Gottlieb's "Final Girl": "She knows / what all of us want never to know / and she does a cartwheel, the splits, she shakes the / shredded pom-poms in her fists." "The Solution" is sexy and absurd and reminds me of Monica Drake or Ritah Parrish: "The line under I Want to Be Fucked Senseless was so long that portable toilets had to be added and a minister brought in for deaths, births, and marriages on the line." "I Go Back to May 1937" includes the promise all writers should tattoo on their backs: "Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it." "This" took my breath and shook me up: "don't / ask me about my country or who my / father was or even what I do, if you / want to know who I am, I am this, this."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Anthologies are great: It's impossible for every poem in a collection to be amazing, but an anthology is the best of the best, all of the important parts mapped out and easily accessible. But it's also good to wade through a collection on your own, in an order the poet originally intended, marking off your own discoveries of the good and the bad. "The Gold Cell" has a very intentional structure, each part with a common theme as it relates to Olds' life. There is a feeling of development, as we w Anthologies are great: It's impossible for every poem in a collection to be amazing, but an anthology is the best of the best, all of the important parts mapped out and easily accessible. But it's also good to wade through a collection on your own, in an order the poet originally intended, marking off your own discoveries of the good and the bad. "The Gold Cell" has a very intentional structure, each part with a common theme as it relates to Olds' life. There is a feeling of development, as we watch her go from universal themes to her parents' suffering and her eventually finding her own happiness as a parent. A cell can be a prison or it can be an egg, full of life. That potential for good and bad in everything permeates this collection, and Sharon Olds returns to the idea that humans don't have to be locked into one or the other. We can choose to live, to not forget the bad, but to not let it hold us back. While she touches on this in individual poems, it takes the entire collection to get the full effect. "The Gold Cell" had my favorite kind of poems (where an ordinary occurrence results in a universal observation) and my least favorite (Freudian poems) -- it was worth getting them all together.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Her poetry was very personal... I could not relate well to most of it except a few dealing with her role as a mother. One in particular hit me as genius: "That Moment." It seems to be about when she fully accepted her role as a mother to her children... Even if we give birth to children, we still have to decide in our hearts and minds to give our lives over to their upbringing and care. Maybe it happens gradually. Maybe at conception; maybe it happens at their birth; maybe sometime after that... Her poetry was very personal... I could not relate well to most of it except a few dealing with her role as a mother. One in particular hit me as genius: "That Moment." It seems to be about when she fully accepted her role as a mother to her children... Even if we give birth to children, we still have to decide in our hearts and minds to give our lives over to their upbringing and care. Maybe it happens gradually. Maybe at conception; maybe it happens at their birth; maybe sometime after that... but it's a decision we have to make if we are to do it well through all kinds of challenges, including divorce, death, or any other tragic event. Otherwise, we're just sort of there, partially committed, and consequently, they know it. Kids know if you're really there of if you're not. from the last 5 lines of the poem: ". . . I cannot remember that / instant when I gave my life to them / the way someone will suddenly give her life over to God / and I stood with them outside the universe / and then like a god I turned and brought them in." I love that. This poem gets 5 stars. :-)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    Brilliant but tough to read because the subject matter is so personal; it's borderline confessional poetry. Then again, Olds is known for her frank, raw imagery. This particular volume of poetry is divided into four sections that roughly correspond to four stages of her life: pre-birth/relationship between her parents, childhood/relationship with her parents, adolescence/relationships outside her family, and adulthood/motherhood. Not all of the poems are about Olds, though, and those that deviate Brilliant but tough to read because the subject matter is so personal; it's borderline confessional poetry. Then again, Olds is known for her frank, raw imagery. This particular volume of poetry is divided into four sections that roughly correspond to four stages of her life: pre-birth/relationship between her parents, childhood/relationship with her parents, adolescence/relationships outside her family, and adulthood/motherhood. Not all of the poems are about Olds, though, and those that deviate are often both interesting and disturbing. Still, her poems are powerful and go places where you don't expect them to while not necessarily surprising you. This is a good place to start if you want to read Olds's poetry.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle Jones

    The last section is my favorite, I love the way Olds writes about parenthood. I usually skim the middle section, I find her writing about sexuality uncomfortably raw and overdone. I do get a giggle over “The Pope’s Penis” but I feel a twinge of guilt when I read it. “The Green Shirt” about her son’s broken arm is one of my favorite poems, ever. The last line comes to my mind often as I raise my own children. /our eyes fill, we cannot look at each other, we watch him carefully and kindly soap the The last section is my favorite, I love the way Olds writes about parenthood. I usually skim the middle section, I find her writing about sexuality uncomfortably raw and overdone. I do get a giggle over “The Pope’s Penis” but I feel a twinge of guilt when I read it. “The Green Shirt” about her son’s broken arm is one of my favorite poems, ever. The last line comes to my mind often as I raise my own children. /our eyes fill, we cannot look at each other, we watch him carefully and kindly soap the damaged arm, he was given to us perfect, we had sworn no harm would come to him./ Another favorite line, from “Looking at Them Asleep”- /When love comes to me and says What do you know, I say This girl, this boy./

  15. 4 out of 5

    W.B.

    There are always good poems in an Olds collection. There are always cringeworthy poems in an Olds collection. That much said, the books are usually worth owning. I love the one in here written to the pope's penis, and the one about the man with his half-formed brother growing out of his chest. The visceral--and horror stories from the news (addressed in a punchy style) seem to be her two favorite themes and are her strong suits. Focusing on the Freudian family is her default mode when the Furies There are always good poems in an Olds collection. There are always cringeworthy poems in an Olds collection. That much said, the books are usually worth owning. I love the one in here written to the pope's penis, and the one about the man with his half-formed brother growing out of his chest. The visceral--and horror stories from the news (addressed in a punchy style) seem to be her two favorite themes and are her strong suits. Focusing on the Freudian family is her default mode when the Furies aren't cooperating. The poems are written in that style that will have many accusing her of writing lineated prose. She does go for the cheap & easy simile sometimes. But there's some pretty good stuff in here too. I recommend her.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    I appreciate that Olds uses material from her life to make a beautiful poem. at times I find the sexual language to be a little too much, though. also at times i feel like the language could be a little more original or she could stray from her comfort zone to discover a different structure or tone, but if she did, she wouldn't be her. there are poets who stick to one mode and it works for them and that's what they are known for. and there are poets who differ so greatly in various poems that yo I appreciate that Olds uses material from her life to make a beautiful poem. at times I find the sexual language to be a little too much, though. also at times i feel like the language could be a little more original or she could stray from her comfort zone to discover a different structure or tone, but if she did, she wouldn't be her. there are poets who stick to one mode and it works for them and that's what they are known for. and there are poets who differ so greatly in various poems that you couldn't pin them down for a voice. Olds is the first kind. that being said, although some don't like the last section, there were times when i felt very emotional, and i love "the quest".

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Fitzpatrick

    Olds does a beautiful job falling between personal experience and generally relatable events. The Gold Cell is broken down into 4 different sections, each with its own personality. A personal favorite of mine is "I go back to May 1937." This poem intensifies a relationship of a girl looking at a photograph and her parents. She writes wishing they would have never gotten married, but quickly retracts with thanking her chance for life. Most of the book portrays a broken family and the resulting su Olds does a beautiful job falling between personal experience and generally relatable events. The Gold Cell is broken down into 4 different sections, each with its own personality. A personal favorite of mine is "I go back to May 1937." This poem intensifies a relationship of a girl looking at a photograph and her parents. She writes wishing they would have never gotten married, but quickly retracts with thanking her chance for life. Most of the book portrays a broken family and the resulting suffering. I found it interesting that in later publications of the book Olds took her children's names out and replaced them with "boy" and "girl."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Good, though somewhat uneven, collection of poems that center on the different stages of life. Some of the poems, like "Summer Solstice, New York City," "The Solution," and "I Go Back to May 1937," are extremely powerful and were deeply moving for me, while a lot of the other ones were so-so. I think I'd probably enjoy the book more if I had kids; so maybe I'll come back and read it again in the future. I also think women may get more out of this book, as well, since it's largely female/mother-c Good, though somewhat uneven, collection of poems that center on the different stages of life. Some of the poems, like "Summer Solstice, New York City," "The Solution," and "I Go Back to May 1937," are extremely powerful and were deeply moving for me, while a lot of the other ones were so-so. I think I'd probably enjoy the book more if I had kids; so maybe I'll come back and read it again in the future. I also think women may get more out of this book, as well, since it's largely female/mother-centric. Overall it's decent, but apart from a few of the poems I don't think I'll spend much more time with it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    E

    The first time I read this collection of poems, I was shocked out of my socks, and it felt good. The ways that family torments and saves - sometimes simultaneously - is a recurrent feature. Metaphors that strike home. Sometimes, you might feel after finishing one of her poems about family that your stomach has flipped inside-out and left you holding all the gross, gooey parts in your hands. Then, the moments of self-cleansing, self-clarification, and epiphany fall into place, and you're glad you The first time I read this collection of poems, I was shocked out of my socks, and it felt good. The ways that family torments and saves - sometimes simultaneously - is a recurrent feature. Metaphors that strike home. Sometimes, you might feel after finishing one of her poems about family that your stomach has flipped inside-out and left you holding all the gross, gooey parts in your hands. Then, the moments of self-cleansing, self-clarification, and epiphany fall into place, and you're glad you read the book after all. Truth and humor are compacted in the very brief, very imagistic "The Pope's Penis" - something most of us have probably never bothered (or wanted) to contemplate.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danah

    Sharon Old's writing is thematically very deep and raw, and the writing is beautiful while also being harsh. From a technical standpoint, being a writer myself, I like it very much. However, there are only so many poems that need to have sex included in the imagery. Quite frankly, my favorites are the ones that don't have it. (Basically, the entire third section of the book) If you are a fan of poetry, you should probably check this out as a great example of confessional poetry. If you are a casu Sharon Old's writing is thematically very deep and raw, and the writing is beautiful while also being harsh. From a technical standpoint, being a writer myself, I like it very much. However, there are only so many poems that need to have sex included in the imagery. Quite frankly, my favorites are the ones that don't have it. (Basically, the entire third section of the book) If you are a fan of poetry, you should probably check this out as a great example of confessional poetry. If you are a casual reader, you should probably avoid this as you will probably be put off by it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel Clarke

    I actually found the a few poems in the first section (of four) sufficiently awkward to put the book aside for a while. I’m glad I came back to it. The remaining sections, on sex, mortality and motherhood, are rawly emotional and compelling but never slack it uncontrolled and in sharp contrast to the well-meaning but slightly clumsy handling of race and prejudice in the first section. Perhaps our cultural norms as middle class liberal white people have shifted a little? I wonder how she would de I actually found the a few poems in the first section (of four) sufficiently awkward to put the book aside for a while. I’m glad I came back to it. The remaining sections, on sex, mortality and motherhood, are rawly emotional and compelling but never slack it uncontrolled and in sharp contrast to the well-meaning but slightly clumsy handling of race and prejudice in the first section. Perhaps our cultural norms as middle class liberal white people have shifted a little? I wonder how she would deal with the same issues now?

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Brunati

    Vulgar, brutal, disturbing, and harrowing images are words I would use to describe Sharon Olds collection of poems "The Gold Cell." And yet I found it to be incredible. Every Poem is injected with real situations and emotions. While some of the subject matters are not pretty the way that Olds showcases it is brilliant. As a reader I have to appreciate the no holds barred approach that Olds displays as it is so difficult to find in poetry nowadays. Sometimes the “no fear’ approach makes for the b Vulgar, brutal, disturbing, and harrowing images are words I would use to describe Sharon Olds collection of poems "The Gold Cell." And yet I found it to be incredible. Every Poem is injected with real situations and emotions. While some of the subject matters are not pretty the way that Olds showcases it is brilliant. As a reader I have to appreciate the no holds barred approach that Olds displays as it is so difficult to find in poetry nowadays. Sometimes the “no fear’ approach makes for the best material.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ned Ryerson

    I guess I'm on a poetry kick. I couldn't really decide how to rate this book because half of the poems are brilliant and half of them kinda suck. So I gave it 4 stars based on the really good ones. There are two specific poems that really stick out in my mind. One is about a young love that dies (literally) and the other is about her kids. Now that I am a mother the kids ones really affect me. I get it now.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Uneven as any collection might be, but much more good than mediocre in this collection. Divided such that early poems deal with her parents, middle with her marriage, and final with her two children. Too bad they cannot be used in middle school classrooms, for the most part, as Olds proves that you can write poetry about anything -- even sex.

  25. 4 out of 5

    nat

    3.5 stars: olds is a very talented writer. her poems are only good when they are personal. her objective poems only sounded emotionless and robotic. but her personal poems are extremely raw and harsh and true and the things that a poem should be. i enjoyed reading her story, but i didnt really connect with many of the themes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    MOre please.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen Beculhimer

    Brilliant and raw.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Amico

    Constantly floored by Olds’s eye for detail, her sentences that flow and buoy the reader along, and her fierceness—whether it be love or anger, sadness or pride, she feels it sharply and puts it on page like no one else.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna ItsMyBirthWrite

    2.5 - some poems I liked, and overall I liked Olds' writing, but sometimes it felt like it was written just to be shocking.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Clong

    Someone should tell Sharon Olds that it is possible to write a poem without the use of sexual imagery. Seems very one trick ponyish. There were good poetic elements. But on the whole she seemed to rely too heavily on shock and awe. A poem about grotesque conjoined twins. A poem about a brutal rape and murder of two twelve year olds. A poem about a baby abandoned in a garbage can...etc. etc. I read recently that good writing can be used to say to the world, "look at who we are!" Sharon Olds makes Someone should tell Sharon Olds that it is possible to write a poem without the use of sexual imagery. Seems very one trick ponyish. There were good poetic elements. But on the whole she seemed to rely too heavily on shock and awe. A poem about grotesque conjoined twins. A poem about a brutal rape and murder of two twelve year olds. A poem about a baby abandoned in a garbage can...etc. etc. I read recently that good writing can be used to say to the world, "look at who we are!" Sharon Olds makes me feel very depressed about who we are. Which is not to say that she is inaccurate...that's probably what makes it so depressing. But I think she could mix it up a bit. Find vehicles other than sex and gore.

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