by ROSE BRENNAN, A&E Editor
If you’ve never cried over a collection of poetry, look no further.
“Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog” is an intimate look inside the relationship of Paul Monette and Roger “Rog” Horowitz, who were partners during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Horowitz died of AIDS at the age of 44 in 1986, and was followed by Monette nine years later in 1995. Horowitz’s death was devastating to Monette, and it inspired him to immortalize Horowitz in the 18 poems of the collection.
For those of us who are not English majors, an elegy is defined as “a poem of mourning for an individual, or a lament for some tragic event.” This makes the poetic style extremely fitting, as all 18 poems were written within five months of Horowitz’s death.
What makes the poems especially powerful is their structure. Every poem is written without punctuation, capitalization or form, making each poem another stream of consciousness straight from Monette’s head and heart.
For Monette, writing this poetry was absolutely essential to cope with and move on from Horowitz’s death.
“These elegies were written during the five months after [Horowitz] died, one right after the other, with hardly a half day’s poem between,” Monette writes in the collection’s preface. “Writing them quite literally kept me alive, for the only time I wasn’t wailing and trembling was when I was hammering at these poems. I have let them stand as raw as they came.”
My personal favorite poem within the collection is “No Goodbyes.” The poem scores especially high on the tearjerker scale, and provides personal and intimate details of Monette and Horowitz’s life together, making it all the more devastating when put into the context of Horowitz’s death. Monette especially remembers Horowitz’s hair within “No Goodbyes,” and ties it to his life force, and when Horowitz finally succumbs to his illness, there are only a few hairs left atop his head. Even after Horowitz dies, Monette still holds onto his hairbrush, noting that it still smells like him.
However, while several of the poems recount highly specific details within Monette and Horowitz’s relationship, that relationship serves as an example of the countless lives that were torn apart by the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Had it not been for institutional negligence and overall indifference, this devastation would not have become commonplace among same-sex couples during this time.
“Love Alone” truly tells the story of a generation, one that was unjustly ignored because the disease disproportionately affected gay men. Monette writes in the collection’s preface, “I would rather have this volume filed under AIDS than under Poetry, because if these words speak to anyone they are for those who are mad with loss, to let them know they are not alone.”
The story of the love between Monette and Horowitz is beautifully tragic, and gives a true insight into the human condition and how it understands grief. In Monette’s own words, “I learned too well what it means to be a people, learned in the joy of my best friend what all the meaningless pain and horror cannot take away– that all there is is love.”
Though neither are alive now, Monette’s words and memories of his life with and love of Horowitz live on in this collection of eighteen elegies, beautifully written and tragically delivered.