Winner of the 2020 Michael Waters Poetry Prize
On the brink of climate catastrophe, a mother grappling with her choice to bring children into an apocalyptic world sends her daughters into the woods of fairy tale as a rite of initiation. The woods carry her fears of extinction— devastating fires, rising seas, and the predatory dangers of girlhood—but also contain the transformative magic of love, interdependence, and renewal. And If the Woods Carry You roots into the wild heart of motherhood, where worry and wonder intertwine.
“Thick with the intrinsic music of the woods, Erin Rodoni’s And If the Woods Carry You offers us a lyrical journey through a world ‘heavy with ghosts and dead bees,’ enchantment, and grit. With language that is both tender and incisive, Rodoni gives voice to the wonder and uncertainty of childhood and motherhood, illuminating a land of illness and loss, but also of ‘everyday magic’ and exquisite beauty.”
“Like all great fairy tales, Erin Rodoni’s poems are a glorious marriage of the domestic and the dangerous. There are tests and transformations, solitudes and sacrifices, births and burials. Everything is changing into something else, something energized, erotic, and enchanted. But it is the poet’s attention to craft that lifts these poems from the beguiling world of mere narrative into the more magical realm of art. In language that feels both ancient and current, Rodoni manages to craft lyrics that seem to come from some other world while speaking truths to this one. This is a marvelous book with a poetic voice to enliven even the wildest woods.”
“‘Oh, it is dangerous / to love a child,’ writes Erin Rodoni as both lamentation and warning in this book of woods and gardens less bucolic than roiled with the underlying darkness of fairy tales. Her journeying through such sensuous landscapes uncovers implicit desires for herself and her daughters, as well as explicit desire for her craft: ‘I want the poem to hold everything the way my body holds / the whole and holy of me.’ If these poems, their ‘vision exquisite / with detail,’ bring to mind Donatello’s wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene, that striking embodiment of suffering, they also insist that healing is another constant in our lives and remind us that ‘Whatever we mother, it is tenderly / vicious, this language we speak.’”