Liberty Limited is a collection of poems of great passion and compassion, of wonders and shame, of bodies and souls. It is a voice for and about the voiceless, for and about those who used to have some limited liberty, but who have lost it long ago: victims of human trafficking, child prostitution, war. It is a voice not easy to attend to, it is both profane and metaphysical, painfully clear and muddy. It does not bring words of comfort, nor does it offer answers. It is a voice for and about the voiceless.
let there be a frantic howl cutting to the bone, a roar in memory of the stolen generations, for the future and lives granulated, mulled, pulverized.
lives undermined, truncated, discriminated.
let there be a deafening thud, a wailing boom for the ages of torture, abasement and exploitation. (“let there be a word”)
Liberty Limited takes us to places with exotic names but mundane and devastating stories. It also takes us to our limits: do we want to face these stories, do we want to face the characters whose appalling fates and personal tragedies have not been and will not be recorded by international media or history books. To what extent can we resist the easy solution of looking away, of closing this very volume. How much of our liberty do we give to these fates? And having read a poem, to what extent can we resist thinking on? Can we not immerse ourselves in the voice of the speaker, in the voice of the horrified lyric i?
And it is of no little significance that the lyric i is not spelled with a capital letter, that the autocorrective mechanisms of my word processor have to be manually re-corrected or overridden every time I (i) type this word. Contemplating the irrational pain makes the lyric i one of and one with the victims. In this world every character we meet and face is equally holy and lowly.
she’s an aids-infected saint, a sexual angel waiting for her death-sentence in these times when love is a leap to death. (“epiphany of a violated body”)
The reader who chooses to accompany the lyric i on this liberty limiting journey around the world must step by step readjust his or her autocorrective mechanisms and experience that there is no exception in trauma. Like the lyric i, we have to give up our comfort and convenience all epitomized in the capital I. We have to give up our claims on capitalization in all the senses of the word: grammatical and epistemological, economical and political.
In the final section of the volume we get asked the question: “is poetry political?” (‘lightly exploding trills’) This line makes one stop and ponder: having followed this volume of lyrical contemplation, can poetry be anything but political?
who provides an enclave, a shelter of hope, an oasis far from the ondulating suffocation and obscenity?
who needs our work?
who wants our dreams?
for whom and how should we bring change if we’re all drowning in the drains?
how to play the piano with our fingers cut off? (“recycled carma”)
Liberty Limitedis an autopsy of a highly politicized, aestheticized and very sensual world of terror. Here the enclosed – and limiting – spaces of city life, like shower cubicles, the protection of one’s desk; or non-places of the metropolis, like tram-stops or other places of anonymity, offer no consolation and no escape from the haunting images of a global humanitarian crisis.
children are waving among the shells and corpses entombed by the crumbling houses.
worn faces of children hardened by war, their future has been sold by politicized arrogance. (“a requiem for Syria”)
No consolation is offered, because Liberty Limited, or Liberty Ltd. is not only the condition of the suffering millions or the pensive lyrical i: it is also a mechanical reproduction of violence, a machinery of interest we are all parts of.
our life is an appendix to energy interests, market tendencies and the fluctuations of power.(“choosing silence”)
Liberty Limited is a corporation eating away the Amazonian forest (‘let there be a word’), self-sacrificing doctors (‘a requiem for Syria’) as well as a possibility for a future (‘a marvelous hiatus’). And one, like a poet sentenced to life (“humanity crucified”), just stands there contemplating – and feeling.
This review is the afterword to Liberty Limited by Károly Sándor Pallai. The book, published by Éditions Arthée, is available here.