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.
"Review: Indictus by Natalie Eilbert" by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett for The East Bay Review
Eilbert excels at representing the cyclical nature of trauma, how survivors live with the paradox of their experiences meaning both nothing and everything, how they’ve changed profoundly and yet outwardly remain the same person: “Years and years went by like this. My childhood was decent. / Years and years went by like this. My childhood was decent. / And yet.”
"‘Indictus’ Take Two: Breaking Poetry Apart 'Like a Bloody Geode'" by Sarah Huener for The Chicago Review of Books
Indictus is a tour de force. Its anger is unafraid; it owes us nothing and refuses to apologize; it is a chronicle and an agent. Eilbert tempers her words for no one; she too has a truth, and has unmade your mouth so you might listen.
"‘Indictus’ Take One: Unabashed Verbal Maximalism" by Peter Myers for The Chicago Review of Books
Here and throughout Indictus, Eilbert’s speaker swings between supreme agency over a wholly malleable world and mere object, hole, passive receiver. These opposing modes strain against each other and threaten to fly apart. But the rhythmic drive and unrelenting sense of urgency that undergird Eilbert’s poems holds them together, just as centripetal force holds bodies to the walls of a Gravitron—one is afraid to stop reading at the risk of flying off into space.
"January 2018 Reading" by Jenn Shapland for THE Magazine
“Indictus points to the unsaid,” Natalie Eilbert writes in her second collection of poems. “In this way, to indict is to write the unsaid.” We are in an age of indictments, an unfolding cultural moment of, if not quite reckoning, speaking out about abuse, harassment, and violation. Eilbert’s Indictus is a “book of men,” one that chronicles the poet’s still unspeakable experiences with sexual abuse without ever narrating or naming them. “I take these specific men who saw no mind, who lacquered my body with the possessive, giving me / only the failure of narrative, sentencing my life to verb—I take these men and I form them into / the wound of a line.” Her endlessly fluid use and reuse of language indicts every reader. In her survival, Eilbert shows all the ways that she is still living with the legacies of past violences, still daily surviving and making “use of loss.” A tough, rough, painful read, one that generates not answers but, in the poet’s words, “crisper questions” about a subject that implicates us all.
"21 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: January 2018" by Erica Wright for Writer's Bones
While calling a new poetry release “hotly anticipated” always seems like an inside joke, I have been eagerly waiting for this collection. Eilbert’s lyricism is simultaneously tough and vulnerable, an acknowledgment of the defenses necessary to survive in an increasingly cruel world. Moreover, her poems live in our modern age, never shying away from mentions of technology or even the occasional Applebee’s. In “The Limits of What We Can Do,” which appeared in The New Yorker, she writes, “I like poetry because there are no miracles in it.” Perhaps no miracles, but Eilbert’s poems do possess a beguiling forthrightness and Indictus—which confronts issues of sexual assault—couldn't be more important for our time.
"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.
Natalie Eilbert, Indictus by Rob Mclennan for the rob mclennan blog
The poems in Indictus are intimate, raw and emotionally bare, and allow nothing and no-one off the hook, naming names and demanding acknowledgment, penance and, occasionally, retribution. Eilbert writes with a barely-contained rage, one carefully and craftfully harnessed and directed before released at full force. If you think these are poems of unravelling, you are reading it wrong.
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.