Natalie Eilbert’s Indictus summons what cannot be said while finding a way to articulate, with ferocity and exuberance and a clear and brutal vision, the violence of misogynistic systems and cultures and the ways in which they devour and destroy their inhabitants. It’s not just that this book doesn’t waste words. It goes further than that. Each sound, line, breath is charged with an energy that is explosive. Indictus lays all its cards on the table so there are no doubts about just how high the stakes here are: ‘I didn’t mean to assemble my whole career on lies, so now I blast holes in the men.’ Yet in this world of broken bodies, Eilbert’s tenacity, her sheer drive to get to the end of a thought, to get the words onto the page, conveys a demand: to be honest, to resist, to live.
Natalie Eilbert’s Indictus is the book of poems I want to be reading in these days. It is the counteragent, the cure, to a world that blames us for being ourselves. It is a book that quickly becomes a place to rest our weary loneliness, to give the unsaid a place to be said, as Eilbert decries both forcefully and plainly, ‘my cunt is star.’ In the book, Eilbert reverts and subverts our expectations of the origin of things, reversing the power dynamic between her persona and the reader a million times over, creating a world where all of the great spiritual secrets sing their ‘devoted’ and ‘stone’ songs in the ‘veal-dark’ of the afterlife. If you are lost, this book says, come home.
I will not say that Indictus is brave, or necessary, or fierce, or any number of coded adjectives used to describe work by women; words used violently: to dismiss, hush, step over. I will not laud Eilbert for her trauma, her deft vulnerability. Instead, I have removed all of the Homer from my bookshelves, and Dante, and Milton and Holden Caulfield, too. I trashed them all. In their place, Natalie Eilbert’s epic Indictus, the only journey of tribulation and discovery that I regard as true heroism. One could say this is a book of poetry by a woman who has endured unspeakable trauma and lived to bear its witness. One could also say, this book is an incredible document of survival. This book surprised and troubled and inspired me with its humor and sureness, with each poem’s subtle rhythm and control. No—‘fierce’ simply won’t do. Natalie Eilbert possesses—and expertly and gracefully wields—one of the most singular voices in American poetry today.