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Liberation: New Works on Freedom from…

Liberation: New Works on Freedom from Internationally Renowned Poets

by Mark Ludwig

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This collection of 148 poems, each one related to freedom or liberation, represents the work of 62 poets from 24 countries. The table of contents lists the poet’s nation of origin. There is a variety of traditional stanza formats, along with free verse and even one list. Each poem relates to a specific phase of the struggle against bondage.
• “So they might know what liberation is”
• “We are the drums of our ancestor’s hearts”
• “No country untouched”
• “A ghost of gunmetal drones overhead”
• “Death sails into the gilder ballroom in purple satin”
• “Speak when broken”
• “Think of the trapped wren”
• “Towards a promised freedom”
If you enjoy light- hearted poetry, like Dr. Seuss or Robert Service, this book is not for you.

This collection would have been rated a five, except it is missing biographical or bibliographical information. ( )
  bemislibrary | Nov 21, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Like most anthologies, the quality of work here is uneven. The poems in the collection are all nominally on the subject of liberation, but the connection on many of the poems is tenuous. The highlights of the collection are honestly poems in translation, perhaps because the poets writing in Chinese, Hebrew, and other languages are more in tune with the topic than poets in the English speaking world. ( )
  wrmjr66 | Nov 14, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a collection of poetry written for the prompt "Liberation", written by poets from all over the world.

Like any collection of poetry, there were some poems here that I like, some I was indifferent to, and some that I actively disliked. I read it out loud to the air over the course of a months' constitutionals, because I feel that poetry needs to be spoken. It was a good way to experience this book. In fact, for the first half of the book, at least, I was thinking I would end up giving it a fairly bad review: because the poems were all about not liberation, but its opposite - oppression, cruelty, imprisonment, unfreeness. Most of the ones that spoke to Liberation at all spoke of death as liberation.

I think that it's an ongoing weakness of our society - and, in many ways, especially our art - that it seems like we focus on the pain and suffering of injustice - and there is no shortage of it; as a book prompted to commemorate the liberation of the death camps ought to remember, truly enough - but at the expense of allowing ourselves to believe in an alternative to suffering, allowing ourselves to imagine a space for liberation and joy, to explore what that is. And I was hoping, in an anthology themed around liberation, that I would get to see poets doing just that - poems about the exhilaration of new freedoms, of hope and expansiveness. Instead, for the first half of this book, I got poems about suffering.

And suffering is one of the hardest things in this world to write real, true poetry about. To write authentic poetry about other people's suffering is almost impossible. As many of the poems in this book demonstrate by example.

But, reading it aloud to myself, slowly, over the course of a month, as the weather here turned to a bright autumn, I came to realize - as a slow unfolding of grace - that the anthologist understood that: that the front half of the book is loaded with suffering because every page you turn in the book is another step forward to the joy that comes with freedom, that going through these poems in the order they were presented is to follow the journey of liberation, away from the stilted darkness and all the way, step by halting step, to the ecstatic 'we are free, we are free, we are free' refrain of the last poem in the book.

The poems themselves I found uneven, but there's something here for nearly everyone to like; and I could have wished for more in the way of editorial content, but there's something to be said for taking these poems as artifacts in their own right. If you are a person who enjoys modern poetry, international poetry, politically engaged poetry, this is a book worth taking on its own terms. ( )
  melannen | Oct 22, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I don't get a suit of armor. I'm exposed, like a nerve. It's a nightmare.

You know, I've got a cluster of shrapnel, trying every second to crawl its way into my heart. (points at the MINI-ARC REACTOR in his chest) This stops it. This little circle of light. It's part of me now, not just armor. It's a... terrible privilege.

The Avengers, written and directed by Joss Whedon

Freedom is a nebulous concept. With election season bearing down upon us, it is a word that gets bandied about. Partisan polarization and extremism have rendered the word all but meaningless in everyday communication. What is freedom? What does it mean? Freedom from what? Freedom to do what? Freedom fries, freedom fighters, and Freedom, the magazine bankrolled by The Church of Scientology focusing on “Investigative Reporting in the Public Interest.” Somewhere George Orwell is having the last laugh.

Unlike the dank swamp of political discourse, poetry is and should represent something higher and more immediate. Poetry is the “exposed nerve” Bruce Banner talks about. Despite his herculean alter ego, he wears no armor and he feels every bullet and every punch. If poetry can be equated to a superpower, it is one of ultimate vulnerability. Modern post-war poetry presents a confessional immediacy from the poet. Poets also shoulder a “terrible privilege,” to borrow Tony Stark's description of his self-made, armored superpower suit. Liberation: New Works on Freedom from Internationally Renowned Poets, edited and introduced by Mark Ludwig, casts a wide net. Spanning the globe and ranging from amateurs to academics, Liberation seeks a poetic exploration of freedom. It is both tightly snarled together with immediate political concerns, but also approaches these same mundane practical issues with poetry. What results is a literary alchemy, akin to coal plus pressure plus heat plus time resulting in diamonds. Or grit in an oyster producing a pearl. The pain, oppression, tragedy, horror, and atrocity that seems to engulf the globe has given the world these poetic selections.

Beyond the geographic and political, these poems also range from the rhymed to free verse to more experimental forms. Formalistic variations either distance or draw in the reader. The challenge of the poet is to reverse engineer a harrowing tragic experience and turn it into an enjoyable piece. But not every poem here is tragic and despairing. Also included are poems of joy and consuming life's simple pleasures. In participatory democracies, everyday activities we take for granted can also represent small victories in personal freedom.


This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation from the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Second World War. Mark Ludwig, who edits and introduces this poetry collection, “is the founding executive director of the Terezín Music Foundation (TMF), dedicated to preserving and performing the musical legacy of composers imprisoned in the Terezín concentration camp and all artists lost in the Holocaust.” This collection aims to dispel the oft-quoted (and misquoted) saying from philosopher Theodore Adorno, “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” (The well-known variation being “There is no poetry after Auschwitz.”) Unfortunately, even the scope, singularity, and sadism of the Holocaust now seems like a nexus where future barbarities bloomed, whether in Soviet gulags, CIA black sites, and the torture chambers of US allies. One can also add the victims of cartel violence, whether in Colombia or Mexico, and the periodic spats of bloodletting that characterizes the Israelis and Palestinians murdering each other over yards of desolate desert real estate. When one dwells on these everyday atrocities or watches the evening news, the only response seems apocalyptic despair. The only sane sensible thing seems to be give up.

Yet poetry offers a respite, a chance to re-balance the scales, if only from a highly personal perspective. Percy Bysshe Shelley once said, “Poets are the unrecognized legislators of the world.” Probably why every regime, whether democratic, communist, fascist, monarchist, or theocratic, has sought to silence, censor, or kill poets who don't follow and obey with an unthinking, unblinking, animalistic obedience. Sometimes these rebellions happen with direct poetic attacks on the oppressors. At other times, it is a single poet writing about his or her daily experiences with a tenacious honesty.

An anonymous Afghani woman poet wrote: “When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers./When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others.” (Translated from the Pashto by Eliza Griswold.)

Liberation also contains poetry by world renowned American poets like Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, and Yusef Komunyakaa, in addition to a constellation of foreign language poets less well known to an American readership. This volume of new original poetry is a timely rumination on the concept of freedom. Unlike scientific discoveries that yield answers to questions, “What is freedom?” (and also, “What does it mean to be free?”) are questions that require us to re-think and re-answer them every day.

http://driftlessareareview.com/2015/10/11/liberation-edited-and-introduced-by-ma... ( )
  kswolff | Oct 11, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
LIBERATION: New Works on Freedom from Internationally Renowned Poets, is an ambitious project commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Freedom means different things to different people, so this book spans many generations, topics, and poetic forms. I admire the intentions of editor Mark Ludwig, but for such a strong subject, I did not connect emotionally. Too many pieces are cryptic/abstract. In order for poetry to help spark acts of liberation, the reader has to feel the words and be motivated to play a part in changing the injustices in the world or in his town or even in his own family. In the introduction, Ludwig states, "Poets have a unique gift of encouraging us to alter the lens of our day-to-day perspective." I did not feel this book accomplished that.

The book does contain some powerful poems: the urgency and timeliness of "Doaa" by Carol Dine, the honesty of Jay Parini's "Sunday Morning in a Time of War," the unexpected imagery of "No Casualties Reported" by Agi Mishol, and the bittersweet remembrances of Rita Dove's "Orders of the Day," to name a few.

Overall, however, it was missing the promise of the first poem, "On Being Asked to Write a Poem on the Theme of Liberation" by Richard Hoffman:

. . . To liberate / / our children's children's children, / maybe, provide them with an antigen / of an idea, maybe we can manage that / / if we begin right now . . ." ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Oct 8, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807000272, Paperback)

An exploration of freedom by some of the world’s most celebrated poets, published for the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi camps
The year 2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the conclusion of the Second World War. But around the world, oppressed and imprisoned people are still longing for freedom and asking, “What does it mean to be free?” This collection of poems explores that question.
In honor of the anniversary, some of the world’s top contemporary voices—including Rita Dove, Robert Pinsky, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Richard Blanco—have written never-before-published poems on the theme of liberation as it inspires them personally and creatively.  The result is an artistic representation of the universal yearning for freedom spanning eighty-two poems, twenty-five countries, and countless stories of oppression, imprisonment, and liberation. This collection demonstrates the power of art to heal and to bring attention to freedom as a universal human right.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:12:25 -0400)

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