LIEBERMAN, LAURENCE [JAMES] (1935– ). Four years at the College of the Virgin Islands in the 1960s were critical years for poet Laurence
Lieberman, for it was then that he discovered the Caribbean.* Since those
formative years, from his home in the Midwest, Lieberman has systematically
traveled to nearly every Caribbean island for extended periods, and he is
now widely known for his unique narrative poetry recounting those numerous travel adventures. In all his poems, Lieberman epitomizes the stateside traveler in the Caribbean, a sort of exuberant “everytourist,” and his
poetry is filled with emphatic italics and exclamatory statements.
The Unblinding (1968), his first collection, includes poems written when
Lieberman lived in St. Thomas and explored the underwater world. In “The
Transvestite” he writes of his desire to transform himself into a sea creature
to connect more intimately to the water. In “The Drowning,” he likens the
sea to a lover. The numerous fish a snorkeler in the Caribbean might encounter are described in colorful detail in “The Coral Reef.” “Hands and
the Fisherman’s Wife” is a moving love poem written from the point of view
of the fisherman’s wife as she awaits her husband’s return. In other poems
he writes of the mystery of porcupine puffer fish and tarpon.
In The Osprey Suicides (1973), the poet continues his underwater adventures. “Lobsters in the Brain Coral” is a tense record of his pursuit of a
twenty-pound “langouste” with a sling spear. He imagines he is part of a
dance as the water controls his movements in “The Diving Ballet.” Eros at the World Kite Pageant: Poems 1979–1982 (1983) contains poems
about the Caribbean and also about the poet’s trip to Japan, including “Ago
Bay: The Regatta in the Skies.” Here Lieberman appreciates clouds shaped
as sailboats in a picturesque cove in Japan. This volume, however, marks a
change for Lieberman; henceforth, he focuses more on the individuals and
incidents of his Caribbean travels and less on landscape or seascape. In the
many volumes of poetry that have followed—his most recent being a collection named for the previously mentioned poem, The Regatta in the Skies:
Selected Long Poems (2000)—Lieberman describes his activities at festivals,
monuments, and intriguing points of interest on nearly all the Caribbean