After the man she loves goes missing while hiking a volcano in Japan, Rebecca Lindenberg is left alone and still loving him. When Lindenberg’s relationship with poet Craig Arnold ended in 2009, her sorrow and joy became a means of navigating the landscape of her emotions. Love, An Index is a collection of poems that tell their story.
Lindenberg began writing the poems that appear within in 2006 while living abroad, in Rome, with Arnold and his son. Completed in 2009, shortly after his disappearance, there is a beautiful juxtaposition of life and death. In “Catalogue of Ephemera” the present tense give signifies that with death, not all is lost. Yet, three pages later Arnold is referenced in past tense. This past-present oscillation continues lending the colleciton a sense of history and hope.
One of the things I found most appealing about Lindenberg’s poems, aside from her honest portrayal of emotion, was the vividness she presents. In “What Rings but Can’t Be Answered,” striking use of color is introduced—colors of bone—and carries through the next two poems with ivory exclamation mark and freshwater pearls, only to reappear again in varying forms throughout the title poem, and many others.
Red is ever present and opposing the lightness and purity of white. Often associated with the feelings of love, passion, energy and strength, red can also illicit anger, fear, or caution. “Love, a Footnote” embodies these dualities best and explicitly when Lindenberg writes: 7. I love words that can inhabit more than one part of speech, as in a match or to match. The phosphorus smell of a just-lit match. Enough light for two faces to share.
Throughout this poem, present are the Communist Party, wine, blood, heat, cherry, sex, and rust. All physical embodiments of red, but also potential depictions of need or desire, which is where the poem ends: 14. Feeling is a way of knowing what you’re going to think about something. Example: I felt the thought, I could want you. Emotion as premonition. It is a mystery. It is the ideal form of beauty.
Not all of the poems impressed me in such a precise, particular way. Pieces like “Status Update” weren't exactly on par with the rest of the work, most of which contain vivid color and physicalities—two things I really love in a poem. However, the stories within these poems were compelling in their honesty. As such, they contain the seemingly unnecessary things like, “Has high blood sugars” or “Rebecca Lindenberg has high hopes.” These could mean nothing or exactly what they say, yet within the poem and collection we know that there is a story being told, so these minor details probably play a much larger part than they seem.
“Rebecca Lindenberg thinks of poetry as the practice of overhearing yourself,” and she couldn't be more right! As readers make their way through the title poem “Love, An Index,” and collection as a whole, it becomes clear that even when the poems don’t make sense or mean anything to the reader there is an underlying need being met. Lindenberg is telling her story, and there is an overhearing, eavesdropping quality to being part of the intricacies of the journey. A sense of hope and sorrow permeate each poem which allows the emotional immediacy and vivid language of Love, An Index to combine to create the soundtrack that is Rebecca Lindenberg’s loss and continued life.
YouTube video posted by Evan Karp
Ashley Houk is an Online Editorial Assistant for Ogden Publications, the parent company of Utne Reader. When she’s not reviewing books and producing online content for Ogden, she’s probably still reading and vigorously scribbling poems, or blog posts of her own. Find her on WordPress and Tumblr.