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Odes by Sharon Olds review – in praise of tampons and other taboos

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A new collection from the TS Eliot prizewinner finds beauty in the outrages visited on ageing bodies

Sharon Olds’s inspired new collection alerts us to taboos we barely think about ordinarily. The book is exposed – in more ways than one – and could only have been written by a woman: bold, no longer young and inextinguishably curious. In one poem she reports that her partner mocks her: “My partner says that what I write / about women is self-involved. You’re sixty / something years old,” he exclaims, “and still/writing about the first time you got laid!”

Actually, Olds is now 73. And here is a test: if, on reading her Ode of Withered Cleavage, you squirm, you will need to fortify yourself further before sampling the neighbouring poems: Ode to the Clitoris, Blow Job Ode and Douche Bag Ode. And now take a second look at the cleavage ode and reflect that it is Olds herself recoiling with reflex distaste at what age does to a woman’s body, made trickier because the woman in question is her mother.

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