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June 09 , 2010

Bonfire of the Verities


Res ipsa loquitor—the thing speaks for itself—as the lawyers say. But does it? Not in Michael Lieberman’s new book of poems, Bonfire of the Verities. What speaks here is doubt and the commitment to cast aside the apparent truths we all accumulate.Those verities are what are tossed onto Lieberman's bonfire: 

It is here I heap
the platitudes
I cannot keep.

He grounds his struggle precisely:

The coordinates of the country of doubt
are 29º, 45’ N / 95º, 21’ W,

which are those of Houston, his adopted city. It is an unusual poet who is willing to pare away belief and accept that truths—received or earned—must be discarded as we face the unknowable mystery. In the end what Lieberman wrests from the void is the recognition that there is no ultimate choice but dissolution:

This fire burns in me—
it cannot set me free
it leaves me ash, not tree.

And yet ash is both residue and tree, offering the possibility that dissolution is a kind of redemption.

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