Rebecca Lindenberg’s fascination with language is apparent and infectious throughout Love, An Index, her first book of poems. Each poem underscores both the power and ineptitude of language in the face of the ineffable, and one would be hard-pressed to find a subject more difficult to put into words: these poems are about Lindenberg’s relationship with Craig Arnold, a fellow poet who disappeared in 2009 while hiking a volcano in Japan. Love, An Index, tackles two of life’s deepest, most devastating, and unsayable mysteries: love and loss.
Lindenberg once said in an interview, “I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you ‘have something to say.’ I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say.” That which language can only longingly grasp at is the life-giving blood of poetry. Lindenberg, like every other poet, takes a pen in her hand again and again to attempt the impossible and send beautiful, haunting articulations singing through readers’ bone-domes.
Lindenberg is a meticulous curator of her experiences. She creates catalogues, footnotes and, as the title implies, an index of love; she cleverly redefines words in the context of her love story and even riffs on her Facebook statuses, bringing organization, wordplay, and sage commentary to the upending, illogical, chaotic throes of feeling. Ultimately, Lindenberg uses language and textual framework to bring order to her grief while also exposing its nonlinear nature, never giving a false impression of clean closure or tidy resolution.
In “Losing Language: A Phrasebook,” Lindenberg tells us what people really meant when they said after Craig died, “He was a wonderful father,” translating their words to include, “Whatever else I may have thought of him.” Throughout the book she allows us to listen to her poignant direct addresses to Craig, as in “The Museum of Lost Objects”:
My love, I’ve petitioned the curator
who has acquired an empty chest
representing all the poems you will
now never write….
I hope you don’t mind, but I have kept
a few of your pieces
for my private collection. I think
you know the ones I mean.
Unsurprisingly, Lindenberg professes her love for the “Conversation Poem” genre, in which the speaker directly and very personally addresses a close friend or lover. Lindenberg recently wrote about this poetry form in an essay for NPM Daily:“Conversation poems, which are directed right at their interlocutor, like a blown kiss or like a right hook or like a pie in the face, kind of sail. And I like to sail.”
Lindenberg is her language, and everything she touches is text. Throughout Love, An Index, we find titles like “The Girl with The Typewriter Eyes” and “The Girl with The Ink-Stained Teeth.” Listen to her sail in “The Girl with The Microfilm Face”:
Headlines: SEARCH TEAMS!
She gets back in the shower, slowly
to get the newsprint off her skin
it’s a projection: all she has to do
is stand in the light.
You can read more of Rebecca Lindenberg’s poetry in her most recent book, The Logan Notebooks. We look forward to welcoming her to the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival.
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