Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 69 pages, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1880834848Reviewed by Lisbeth Cheever-Gessaman
A metaphysical journey is never complete without it’s quest for beauty and truth and the relationship of the individual in pursuit of those ideals. Trust, the award-winning collection of poems from Liz Waldner, is an ethereal collection of phantasmagoric conclusions and questions that both enfold and envelop the reader into a shared relationship of rich, textual symbiosis. Naturally, completely up my alley as anything even remotely suggestive of mythos often is.
Seduced into its pages beginning with the almost deliriously beautiful cover image, ‘Self-Portrait in a Fiery Sea’, by Julie Heffernen, I am deliciously struck with the obvious axiom of an untrue truth: Never judging a book by its cover. The slick ophelia in virginal stance with open hands of fire (while tentacled demons in the background emerge) does not dissapoint: The image fits as metaphor within a metaphor in that it beckons us to look further within, first the painting, then the pages, and finally ourselves.
The poems are categorized by the five sensory portals (eye, skin, mouth, nose, ear) making each piece a representation of the thing that it is held within. From the time the first pages are turned, we are greeted with fugue like visions which entrance with unearthly elegance and poignance.
Clues are scattered everywhere to draw the reader into the purpose of the piece, if there is such a thing. ‘Truth, Beauty, Tree’, takes its cue with the line from Plato’s Symposium,
Only when he discerns beauty itself through what makes it visible will he be quickened with the true virtue.
drawing us into the riddle of what it is not only to know beauty, but the source of it – our sense of self and our senses of self. And thus our quest begins.
The first offering, ‘Truth, Beauty, Tree’ begins its reflection through the clever use of well-applied enjambment (which occurs with delightful consistence, forcing us to rethink the intent and meaning of its narrator over and over again):
The sky is a beautiful wound.
In it. I
would like this not to be true
but it is.
With a wild luminescence and sense of separateness, Waldner artfully demonstrates the mystics dilemma through her own search. Observation of the world features predominantly while the poems weave themselves in and throughout each other as if in response to the one preceding it, masterfully alluding to the nature of beauty and its perceiver.
The visual canticle, Booking It, lends us parenthetical visions such as
(gargoyles: A stone in the ground says EUCLID),
(crescent moons of keratin-man/encrusts the brick wall)
while detailing the extraordinary within the construct of every day ordinariness,
a chinese man was sitting on a bench/cutting his toenails.
Each lyrical sweep of Waldner’s brush pushes us to a new level of meaning. As much can be said with subsequent reading, where the poems morph and unfold and another new intent appears. Impossible to ‘get’ upon the first reading, we are nevertheless entranced by the mesmerizing voice of the narrator. Intelligent, fantastical and a never-ending delight, Trust draws its reader in with cleverness and wit, and gives us fresh pause to remember what the truest art of poetry is: the ability to undo words,
and then undo us with them.