Book review: Body, In Good Light by Erin Rodoni

In keeping with April’s theme as National Poetry Month, I’m happy to review a lovely book of poetry by a former colleague of mine at Literary Mama, Erin Rodoni.

Erin was the assistant editor in poetry at LM until she had the double good fortune of giving birth to her second child and seeing her first poetry collection in print. Busy woman! Working with her for about a year, I appreciated her careful eye and wide range of poetic appreciation.

Both of these skills are on display in Body, In Good Light. Erin’s poetry demonstrates deftness with a variety of styles while offering a clear, consistent voice. Body, in Good Light explores the tension between body and spirit, light and shadow in sensual, clear-eyed poems.

As the book’s title suggests, the visceral aspects of the body undergird the poems (“sometimes meat, we dream”), particularly as the body loves, ages, battles disease, and gives birth to and nurtures new life. At the same time, poems revel in qualities of light, especially when imbuing the physical with an internal, spiritual glow, like “tomorrow’s sun in her hair.”

Erin’s startling descriptions, such as “pureed carrots like lamb’s blood on the door,” made me imagine her as an impressionistic painter who can evoke external as well as internal landscapes by combining visuals, scent, texture, and sound. Check out these lines from “The Woman Who Is Your Mother”:

I still love the unapologetic suck of a struck match

and the horse that joyfully bucks its rider no matter

how much shugar it lips from a palm. I know the woman

who is your mother will never forgive herself

for all the ways she has to break you

before the world can.

In the book’s third section, motherhood sharpens questions of identity, physicality, and wonder as “the woman / who is your mother still marvels that roaming minerals / in her blood settled to form your bones.” I also loved the lines: “Now that I’m never alone, / I suddenly am so // lonesome.” Yeah, it’s like that. At the same time:

the perfume of another sphere still rises from your body

while you sleep, sweet as the Technicolor sugar at the bottom

of a box of Trix.

Rich imagery, nuanced wordplay, and shifting layers of meaning reward multiple readings of this elegant collection.