Book Review

Body, in Good Light, by Erin Rodoni 

In her debut poetry collection, Body, in Good Light (Sixteen Rivers Press 2017), Erin Rodoni bears witness to a life rooted firmly in the body. She offers narratives and sketches filled with the details of every day life, close observations that at times open outward into more open-ended reflections. 

 A young child rides her mother’s hip “through my first year.” A ninety-year-old woman reveals family stories as she lies on the poet’s massage table. The sight of a sister-in-law, breathless and dying of cancer, prompts the poet to imagine a child “who will never run through this house playing tag with the child I don’t yet have.” President Obama’s aging face evokes thoughts of the poet’s own body beginning to age, the president’s “lips/on his daughter’s forehead,” what it means to live in the White House, where “it is always/November,” and the state of America itself. 

 The poet often writes in a voice that invites us to believe we are reading a personal history, whether the poet’s or that of a persona who could be the poet: “My brother slides the knife from his wife’s fist, dances her around the room.” “The summer I shucked oysters at the end of the world, a man and a woman came on Thursdays, held hands across the table.” “The Woman Who Is Your Mother/doesn’t have time to mourn/the proverbial washboard/abs. She has laundry to fold, nipples/to sterilize. I once blazed/through Piazza del Campo/in a white dress in the rain…” 

 These narratives provide a loosely connected story line that weaves through the collection’s three groups of poems: “The Doppler Effect,” “A Sort of Light We See as Flesh,” and “In the Glow of Bedtime.” These groupings more or less sequentially explore young adulthood; early married life and time spent in close company with a dying sister-in-law; and finally pregnancy and motherhood. 

 The poet’s narrative descriptions are often fresh, precise and clear, but this story-telling mode is not her only voice. A number of the poems are more imagistic. For example, the opening poem, “In Good Light,” presents a mysterious scene: “The others dare me to open the house like a fist./When I fall asleep I wake up/in the yard. Light ekes through slats/like clasped fingers, revealing the blood/in walls that refused them. Every room/a childhood…” 

 Later in the poem, we find images that both parallel and diverge from the opening images: “Every mirror, an adolescence. Fist of gristle,/hair and teeth. The others dare me to pry/open the fingers to free the shrunken/heart…” 

 This opening poem introduces, and stands apart from, the book’s three narrative groupings. It concerns itself with, among other things, mirrors, fire, light, release and memory. The poem’s evocative though less concretely accessible images may be an invitation to examine the lens through which we see experience – an inquiry that resonates with the book’s title. 

 Similarly, the title of the first group of poems, “The Doppler Effect,” implies an inquiry into the nature of perception: The Doppler effect is the apparent increase or decrease in the frequency of waves, such as sound or light, when the source of the waves and the observer move toward or away from each other – for example the change in the pitch of a siren as a fire truck approaches. It is a perceptual phenomenon, not an actual change in frequency. 

 Aficionados of form may appreciate the ways the poet connects the poems to one another. Occasionally, almost slyly, she repeats a verse or an image from a previous poem in a new and unexpected context, perhaps implying a richer meaning than what is found in the individual poems. For example, the last few lines of a prose poem about a summer spent shucking oysters reappear toward the end of the book as a shorter, untitled snippet: “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.” 

 Like the first poem, the final poem stands outside the book’s three narrative groupings. Its title, “Through Clasped Fingers,” recalls the imagery of the opening poem – the prying apart of what is clenched, the light that “ekes through slats/like clasped fingers” – but now the poet speaks in a voice more tinged with faith and a sense of new beginnings. The image of clasped fingers seems purposefully ambiguous; the fingers are closed and yet amenable to light. Here the clasped fingers may even be an oblique reference to hands held in prayer. 

 The collection ends with an evocation of loss and stillness, returning to the sister-in-law’s hospital room and the “we” who grieve: “our bodies/empty like roadside/motels at 9 A.M., I believe/a humming maid will enter/on feather-duster feet,/wipe the mirrors/and change the sheets/and we, still believing/in these bodies, begin again.” 

 


 

Version 3Laura Rosenthal recently has been published or has poems forthcoming in Poetry Now, Brevities, Sacramento Voices and the 2017 Squaw Valley Review. She attended the most recent Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop.

Advertisements

The Miller Party

Don’t miss our annual holiday fundraiser!
November 29th, 6 – 8pm, 1224 40th St.
$40 per person / $30 per member

“I’ve been volunteering with the Poetry Center for over twenty years now, and for every one of those years, SPC has held its annual fundraiser at the Millers’ beautiful home on 40th Street in East Sacramento. If you haven’t seen their home (it’s an art gallery), or had a chance to spend a few minutes talking with these remarkable people, you have missed out on a Sacramento experience. Mimi and Burnett Miller are the kindest, sharpest, most well-travelled people that I know, and their generosity has helped SPC and dozens of other local arts organizations in a big way. We’re honored once again to be able to join the Millers at their home for a festive evening on Wednesday, November 29th. We start at 6:00 and end about 8:00, so don’t be late. There will be food, wine, and entertainment. The program starts at 7:00 with an a cappella group from the CSUS Vocal Jazz department, then poetry from the incomparable Indigo Moor (with bassist Gerry Pineda). Don’t miss it!”

-Bob Stanley, President

Poetry

2017 – 4

Directions for Enlarging Text:

1) click on arrows icon if facing opposite one another
2) click on dog-eared page
3) move dot on slider for preferred text size
4) scroll by moving poems up to read.

Welcome

We want to get things started by introducing the beginning of themed calls for submissions. Poetry Now has always welcomed all poetry from the greater Sacramento region, and we will continue to do so, but we will now add a special, themed section for each issue, in case a prompt inspires you to write more. In a way, it doubles the poetry and publishing opportunity.

ponoPromo

Our first theme is aimed right at the heart of Sacramento. This city has been changing a  lot recently and going through some growing pains. If you have poetry about any aspect of this we’d love to feature it. Topics could be as serious as our rise in homelessness, and the climbing cost of living, to the many restaurants and bars that are building up a new kind of nightlife. Maybe you were surprised by Ladybird’s talented impact? Maybe you were angry that people were surprised by this city’s talent. Maybe you are excited to be The Farm To Fork Capital? Or maybe you still believe we are The City of Trees? Write us a poem. We aren’t too concerned with form but we’d like it to be more than function. Send us your crafted words on the movement of Sactown. The first quarter of 2018 will feature the accepted poems.

sacramentopoetrycenter.submittable.com

 

Photography

Carson Pass_Hickerson-1
Carson Pass Area in Muir’s Range of Light, the Sierra Nevada- Deborah Shaw Hickerson
Heron_in_Flight_Janet
Heron In Flight- Janet Hecsh
Peaceful_Morning_Tejeshwar
Peaceful Morning- Tejeshwar Chowdhary
Arsenal_Tejeshwar
Arsenal- Tejeshwar Chowdhary
What_Walls_Tejeshwar
What Walls- Tejeshwar Chowdhary
Glass_Wings_Tejeshwar
Glass Wings- Tejeshwar Chowdhary
•e-leaf fall-color
Fall fallen- Jan Haag

Deborah Shaw Hickerson is a teacher and poet who lives in Winters, CA. She hosts Winters Out Loud, an open mic poetry gathering every 2nd Thursday in Winters at Berryessa Gap Wine Tasting Room, 15 Main Street.

Janet Hecsh lives and works in Sacramento, CA. An amateur photographer, she uses the iPhone camera to document her world—usually in color. Originally in color, the heron in flight was digitally modified in response to a ‘black and white’ challenge on social media.

Tejeshwar Chowdhary is an alumni and former director of Sacramento State University, California who uses only his smartphone camera to capture life around him. After spending 10 years in Sacramento, he is back in his native country, India, working with a non-profit organization to bring about systemic educational transformation through innovative technology solutions, and fostering change leaders in schools and government institutions.

Jan Haag teaches English and journalism at Sacramento City College and facilitates writing groups locally using the Amherst Writers & Artists method, which reminds people that their voices are worthy of the page. She is the author of a poetry collection, “Companion Spirit,” and one of the publishers of River Rock Books. Her website is janishaag.com.

President’s Message

I’ve been volunteering with the Poetry Center for over twenty years now, and for every one of those years, SPC has held its annual fundraiser at the Millers’ beautiful home on 40th Street in East Sacramento. If you haven’t seen their home (it’s an art gallery), or had a chance to spend a few minutes talking with these remarkable people, you have missed out on a Sacramento experience. Mimi and Burnett Miller are the kindest, sharpest, most well-travelled people that I know, and their generosity has helped SPC and dozens of other local arts organizations in a big way. We’re honored once again to be able to join the Millers at their home for a festive evening on Wednesday, November 29th. We start at 6:00 and end about 8:00, so don’t be late. There will be food, wine, and entertainment. The program starts at 7:00 with an a cappella group from the CSUS Vocal Jazz department, then poetry from the incomparable Indigo Moor (with bassist Gerry Pineda). Don’t miss it!

1224 40th Street.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped make 2017 a great year at SPC – new board members are taking on responsibilities, and we look forward to 2018. Stuart Canton is your new Poetry Now editor; Allie Gove will be editing Tule Review beginning this year. Frank Graham has edited Tule Review for the last few years, and passes the torch, having done a tremendous job, both with the publication itself and the outreach to bring in new writers, artists, and readers. Bravo!

Nancy Aidé Gonzales, Phillip Larrea, Lawrence Dinkins, and Linda Collins have left SPC’s board of directors, and we thank them for their dedicated service! Fortunately, Stuart Canton and Heather Judy have recently joined, and we have a few more who soon will join our team. If you’re interested in helping with the many tasks of running an independent poetry center (there aren’t too many such organizations!), please let us know. Board meetings are at 6pm on the second Monday of every month (at SPC, before the readings), and interested parties are welcome to attend!

The next two meetings are December 11 and January 8 at SPC. The people on the board are the people who make it happen!

Thanks again to all of you: the readers and the listeners and the artists and the hosts and the editors and the helpers. SPC continues to thrive because people are willing to spend their time organizing, hosting, and supporting poetry events. We are fortunate to have such a giving community of poets. We hope to see you at the Millers, and at SPC in 2018.

Bob

Events Calendar

November/December 2017 at Sacramento Poetry Center EVENTS:
All events at SPC, 1719 25th St between Q and R, unless otherwise noted.
All events are subject to change.

Monday, November 27, 7:30pm
Adrena Zawinski and Indigo Moor
Host: Tim Kahl

Wednesday, November 29th, 6:00pm
“The Miller Party” Annual Fundraiser
1224 40th St, $40 per person / $30 per member

Monday, December 4th, 7:30pm
American River Review reading
Hosts: Wendy Williams

Monday, December 11th, 7:30pm
Brad Buchanan and Dan Rounds
Host: Tim Kahl

Monday, December 18, 7:30pm
Barbara West Book Launch, and Grace Loescher
Host: Penny Kline

Monday, December 25th, Closed for Christmas
It’s a poor excuse for picking a man’s bookshelf
of poems every 25th of December
Host: Bob Cratchet