Body, In Good Light by Erin Rodoni
16 Rivers Press, 2017
Review by Francine Rockey
Erin Rodoni’s debut poetry collection Body, In Good Light is a breathtaking tribute gracefully probing the wounds of grief, the joys of birth, and the intricate yet intimate connections between them. Body, In Good Light employs a variety of forms and a distinct striking voice to reel the reader into this well-crafted and heart-raw book of poetry. The opening poem “In Good Light” begins with a dare. A haunting child-speaker recounts, “The others dare me to open,” and we are lured by this irresistible request to open along with the speaker and view “Every mirror, an adolescence. Fist of gristle, / hair and teeth” as a series of blood-lit images and soft internal rhymes establish Body, In Good Light’s somber tone (1).
Rodoni’s skillful use of form ushers readers through Body, in Good Light’s sharp emotional turns. From neat couplets and traditional lyrics, to found poems, Body, in Good Light provides subtle yet significant formal shifts. Perhaps Rodoni’s found poems are her most successful formal expressions. In the “Chemotherapy” poems and “Little Brother,” Rodoni deftly transforms blog posts into poems rich with charged imagery, “Imagine us spinning with our arms straight out, tomorrow’s sun in her hair. We are spinning/ faster and faster, If I want a warm blanket over me, until the bad cells spin out of you” (48). “Little Brother” works not only as a found poem but as a modified sestina that haunts with a ghazal-like refrain, “I swept your room for nightmares. Shadow,/ pest, first friend, you shadow,/ would have followed me anywhere”; each form paces readers through the book’s steep emotional shifts (37).
Body, in Good Light embraces the body as a traveler. We move along with the speaker aboard trains “over ruptured cobblestones” to the edge of the world yet remain firmly rooted by the pervasive tethers of the body. The voice Rodoni creates empowers these passionately charged poems. Whether whispering wisdoms, “Sometimes the weight/ of a toothbrush seems too much when I remember/ I must lift it twice a day until I no longer can” or “demanding blood/ in exchange for miracles” Rodoni’s poignant voice lifts readers toward the unreachable space between reverie and reality.
The successful blending of form and voice make Body, in Good Light a powerful personal debut collection—a tender tribute holding its subjects “full of the future, like a letter/ carried through war” (60).