Body, In Good Light - Erin Rodoni

Wilderness of Skin

by Morgan Peacock

At times gentle and nurturing, at times in-your-face and demanding, the poems in Erin Rodoni’s first published collection require meticulous attention from the reader. Luckily for us, our attention is easily given. Body, In Good Light (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2017) , transitions with ease back and forth between an external exploration of the world around us to closer, more internal musings. From the opening epigraph to the closing acknowledgements, Rodoni draws the reader in with poignant observations of life and loss.

 “To light a candle is to cast a shadow,” a quote from Ursula K Gwin’s novel A Wizard of Earthsea, opens Rodoni’s collection as an epigraph and effectively sets the reader up for what seems to be the overarching thesis of the work: that loss is inextricably tied to life. Whether discussing motherhood, a loved one’s illness, or the particular pain of travelling to a place that, for better or for worse, you know you must leave, Rodoni unflinchingly and tenderly discusses loss and love as two sides of the same coin. The prose poem “At the Edge of the World” on page 19 features a speaker who spent a summer “[shucking] oysters at the edge of the world”. She waits on a couple that she is just sure she recognizes from somewhere:

And it was as if it had always been the three of us, moving in a circle
through time. Sometimes I am the one who is dying, sometimes the one
left behind, sometimes the waitress serving last rounds at the edge of
the world.

These final lines will appear in a later section of the work, further proving the success of the cohesion throughout this collection. Indeed we see throughout the work that the speakers inhabit all three of these personas in one way or another. Each comes with their own pitfalls and perks, which again, Rodoni navigates in an inimitable mix of soft, nascent diction choices and matter-of-fact depictions of the world.

There are three sections in Rodoni’s collection, and each deals with a distinct theme and employs different motifs. The “you”s addressed throughout the poems change as well in each section, and we become aware that we are often viewing the same characters at different points in time, yet clarity is never compromised. It is clear that this work was tightly crafted and edited thoroughly to achieve this clarity. The reader is infinitely grateful, because the language is lilting, musical, and most of all, powerful. The stories we are told and the characters we meet— and yes, lose— are never a challenge to parse out. Whether we are exploring a “wilderness/of skin” (“The Mall Age") or on a train in the Andes (“A Train Fused to Track, and Night Flooding”) we are engaged and delighted to be there.

To love... is to know I will lose you. 

“To love… is to know I will lose you,” Rodoni writes, and yet throughout the collection, she keeps on loving. Perhaps this is what we are intended to take away as witnesses to the journey the speaker goes on throughout the book— we engage, we challenge, we love, and yet we know the book will end. We don’t really mind, though, because the nature-inspired imagery, the reverent tone in which the speaker discusses the human body, and the carefully crafted connections in time and place throughout the book makes the journey to the end completely worth it.

Body, In Good Light is available now from Sixteen Rivers Press.