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.
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.
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.
"Must-Read Poetry: January 2018" by Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
Indictus is, among other things, a paean to poetic power: “My obsession with words is a kind of envy, / that they affect meaning as their former usage / is erased, retooled.” Eilbert’s book is an act of reclaiming, revising, transcending—while never forgetting.
Indictus, reviewed in Publishers Weekly
When Eilbert elucidates her abstractions into more tangible metaphors, her brilliance shines through: “Noise of a club// circles back in like a saccharine plague./ The sound of man like the fat that hugs the/ plunged sword.”
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I consider a narrative failure one in which the story does not explain what happened because it is couched in a memory terrorized by its events. An example of this would be the environment and circumstances that led to my first abuse. I couldn’t ever language my chronology, if it happened before or after my house fire, if in the basement of my original or replica house (they built my new house on the same burnt foundations of the old one, too obvious a metaphor I know), if my childhood friend was over or if she had already gone home, if my brother and his friends were in the room next to mine while it happened or if I made that part up. All of these questions acted to gaslight my own experience, because the memory became vague and less clear when I couldn’t answer them. Trauma is a narrative failure for these reasons, which is why, when I see other writers freely write rape scenes and sexual traumas into their prose with crisp violent clarity, it feels so cheap to me.