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27

WEDNESDAY

When I first encountered Sharon Olds’ poetry, it scared the bejesus out of me. Not because of its haunted, sex- and death-obsessed atmosphere, but because reading it, at least for insecure men like me, is like taking a quick plunge into freezing water: breathtaking, invigorating—and more than a little uncomfortable and embarrassing. Witness these lines from “The Pope’s Penis”: “It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate/clapper at the center of a bell./It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a/halo of silver seaweed.” Olds’ too-close-for-comfort descriptions of her relationships with her family’s male members—father, husband, and son—delineate the nature of manliness more incisively than anything by Walt Whitman or Robert Bly, and are infused with a lovely but resolutely dry-eyed lyricism. Olds reads from and signs copies of her latest collection, Blood, Tin, Straw (with fellow poet Daniel Halpern reading from his latest, Something Shining), at 7 p.m. at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. Free. (202) 347-5495. (Leonard Roberge)