And If the Woods Carry You

Available now from SIR Press

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.”

-Vandana Khanna

“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.”

-Dean Rader

“‘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.’”

-Michael Waters

“Erin Rodoni’s And If the Woods Carry You is a commanding interrogation of motherhood and the many complicated relationships that come with it: mother to child, mother to nature, and mother to self. Though often tender, these poems, unlike many similarly themed poems, roar from the page, asserting agency, demanding attention and asking hard questions of both motherhood and the reader. In a lynchpin poem of the collection, Rodoni’s speaker announces, “I want the poem to hold everything the way my body holds / the whole and holy me” (“Time Capsule: The Poem”). And hold everything these poems seem to do. There’s a depth to these poems; they face the pain of birth and the difficulty of explaining death to a child; they confront climate change and the myths we tell ourselves to hide from painful truths; they play in apocrypha and rule, forest and carpet; and they craft a complicated, relatable speaker, unafraid to admit, “childhood is mythed / and monstered” and wonder where that leaves the mother (“Lullaby with Fireflies and Rising Seas”).”

-Tyler Truman Julian for The Shore

“Erin Rodoni’s And If the Woods Carry You enthralls from the start and maintains the intensity of its revelations throughout. These are poems for a world whose woods are on fire, a significant contribution to the literature grappling with our looming climate catastrophe. Rodoni’s particular genius is her powerful use of European fairy tale tropes to frame and explore frighteningly modern issues. Above all, her use of fairy tale themes puts family—her own family—squarely at the heart of her work, rendering global dangers comprehensible and intimate for us as she and her daughters enter the dangerous woods of Faerie together.”

-Daniel A. Rabuzzi for Heavy Feather Review

“Erin Rodoni’s And If the Woods Carry You shimmers with a mythos equal parts wondrous and perilous. The woods these poems wander teem with not only elves and mythic white deer but also with monsters, some of them wearing human faces. Like most fairytales, this collection has the power to enchant readers with its beauty and imagination while offering a kind of practical wisdom. Unlike most fairytales, the lines between good and evil are tenuous, and nothing comes neatly packaged in a happily-ever-after. Rather, each poem operates through an intuition at once associative and informed by the present moment, cutting a circuitous path that takes us from memory to fable, from motherhood to childhood, from the personal to the universal, all without feeling the need to arrive at a predetermined destination. As Rodoni cautions in early pages, “the fairy tale, still / open on my lap, is not a map.”’

-Laura Roth for the Colorado Review

“Creating a landscape woven from fairy tales, myths and even lullabies, Erin Rodoni’s And if the Woods Carry You places us on the precipice of both motherhood and childhood—overlooking the hypnotic beauties of the world around us and also its blood-drenched cruelties and dangers. Drownings, abductions, murder, wives sacrificed to flame—these poems do not shy away from the horrific; they also address global catastrophes like climate change and what that means for the planet’s human and non-human occupants—for all those things we love.

These poems also refuse to forget what we have encountered and emerged from on our journey through the “dark woods” of childhood and adolescence, addressing as well the challenges of parenting, the uncertainties of health and the certainties of unexpected burials and loss. “They don’t tell you the woods are like the past:/ haunted and evergreen. There is no forgetting.”

Rodoni’s book is about survival: How do we live, give birth, love in the face of these challenges? The speaker in the first poem speculates that: “maybe, like me,/ the only god you can conceive/ is a kind of wakefulness.” The poems in this magnificent book are magical, lyrical, and full of wakefulness.”

-Northern California Book Award committee review