A man disappears. The woman who loves him is left scarred and haunted. In her fierce, one-of-a-kind debut, Rebecca Lindenberg tells the story—in verse—of her passionate relationship with Craig Arnold, a much-respected poet who disappeared in 2009 while hiking a volcano in Japan. Lindenberg's billowing, I-contain-multitudes style lays bare the poet's sadnesses, joys, and longings in poems that are lyric and narrative, at once plainspoken and musically elaborate.
Regarding her role in Arnold's story, Lindenberg writes with clear-eyed humility and endearing dignity: "The girl with the ink-stained teeth / knows she's famous / in a tiny, tragic way. / She's not / daft, after all." And then later, playfully, of her travels in Italy with the poet, her lover: "The carabinieri / wanted to know if there were bears / in our part of America. Yes, we said, / many bears. Man-eating bears? Yes, of course, / many man-eating bears." Every poem in this collection bursts with humor, pathos, verve—and an utterly unique, soulful voice.
This widely anticipated debut, already selected as a finalist for several prominent book awards, marks the first collection in the newly minted McSweeney's Poetry Series. MPS is an imprint which seeks to publish a broad range of excellent new poetry collections in exquisitely designed hardcovers—poetry that's useful and meaningful to anyone in any walk of life.
The whole of Lindenberg's debut is her memorial to her late husband, the widely admired poet Craig Arnold (Made Flesh), who disappeared while hiking around a Japanese volcano in 2009. Unified by its passion and looks back at an exemplary and an exceptional romance, the volume avoids monotony through the forms that Lindenberg adopts or invents. Two prose poems are called "Status Update" one of them says, "Rebecca Lindenberg has joined the group It All Seems So Simple Now, In the Aftermath of This Consciousness-Altering Tragedy.' " Sparse free verse recalls travel together, or else echoes Sappho's monodies: "Hush, hush, heart-monster // I'm varnishing/ the bone-ladder.// Don't worry, he'll be back// any minute now." Literal memories (some involving Arnold's teenage son) balance out lyrical spells, and terse forms balance profuse ones, in this book that amounts to a prolonged keening, a transparent if information-rich lament. The long title poem presents itself as an index ("TELEPHONE/ bill, all those phone calls... TELEPHONE mobile, for so long you refused to have one... TORREY, Utah"): it's more like an essay, less lyrical, than the rest, and many readers will go there first. The volume is also the first in the new poetry series from McSweeney's Books.