Cast often through fairytale and myth, Erin Adair-Hodges’s new collection audaciously examines a contemporary experience of womanhood. Every Form of Ruin is a scalpel, exposing various forms of gendered violence, the vicissitudes and joys of wifedom and motherhood (‘momming’ as the poet brilliantly neologizes), and the power of sisterhood and of claiming the self in all its multitudes. There is so much in the craft of these poems equally to admire and revel in, including Adair-Hodges’s seemingly effortlessly inventive turns of image, line, and phrase. Her tone and the voice of these poems is also a wonder, at once irreverent, funny, biting, and downright sad. While the poems square themselves against ruin, they are actually resplendent, coming to us as they do, from ‘a country in which the poet is the only citizen so, also, its queen.’
A rebuttal to Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Every Form of Ruin posits the Erinyes’ fury as righteous, understanding Clytemnestra’s rageful response to loss, and refusing Iphigenia’s relegation to a footnoted sacrifice. A fierce and darkly funny examination of anger, these lyrical poems push back against silencing by playing witness to a world where the experiences of women, nonbinary, and femme-identifying people are too often ignored, their responses dismissed as hysterical. These poems are also investigations into the loneliness of midlife; the search for one’s own self when that self has given its life to service. Every Form of Ruin counters our culture’s erasure of women and resists the categorizations of maiden, mother, crone by blurring those distinctions through the creation of voices that are moved by rage and resistance.
The dogwood was threatening to swallow the back garden’s light,
so I borrowed a chainsaw and gas. Its last berries a memory of red, the fruit
bitter, tiny angry mangos in the mouth of its killer. Nights my son chooses his father
to read him into silence, I practice not loving anything. Less like learning than remembering.
As a child, I studied how to be a child. I was given a doll to care for
but could never remember its name. I left her face down everywhere.
If you’ve ever been crammed into a box with a word like ‘woman’ or ‘girl’ or ‘mother’ or ‘bossy’ or ‘bitch’ scribbled on the side, these poems are for you. If you’ve fought yourself exhausted and then gotten up to fight some more, this book is for you. If you love Clytemnestra’s courage and would have defended Iphigenia to the death too, if you know how Cassandra has been talked over and over or have called upon the Erinyes in your hour of need, these are the poems you’ve been waiting for. And if you don’t know any of these legends yet, but want good company in your rage, Every Form of Ruin will thrill and console and inspire.
Her windows into a poem are often narrow and anecdotal, before widening to encompass the most open, wild settings and most universal questions.
Erin Adair-Hodges is the author of Let’s All Die Happy, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. Recipient of the Allen Tate Prize and the Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, her work has been featured in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review, PBS NewsHour, Ploughshares, Sewanee Review, and more. Born and raised in New Mexico, she now lives with her family in Kansas City, Missouri, and works as a fiction acquisitions editor.