Saturday, December 11, 2010

Poena Damni by Dimitris Lyacos

Poena Damni
Z213: EXIT
Dimitris Lyacos
Shoestring Press 2010
translation: Shorsha Sullivan
ISBN: 978356-05-6

Lyacos's trilogy, Poena Damni; in reverse, Z213: Exit is the completion
of the trilogy. If the translations of the poems are exact, these poems
are light years beyond our contemporary poetics. It reads like Homer,
in that it is an epic poem taken from the sea in other words almost forcing
a perpetrated history, each poem connected by heritage. The poems
connect without a consistent use of punctuation; it all reads like an epic
and the epic is intellectual as well as experiential imparting:

"these names and that's how
they found me.And as soon as they brought me I stayed
for a while and then they took me it was a building of
four wards large yards and rooms the rest of the people
were there four wards separate not far from the sea.
And we would eat together sometimes and in the middle
a log with cut branches on top over it an opening for the
smoke, and ashes spread out on the floor black stains
and ashes.And from the pores in the walls a little water
would come and sometimes you could ask go upstairs
and visit somebody else and when sometimes in the
evening the power was out and we were sitting silent in
the dark…"

And these references:

"This is continuity, you travel,
perhaps in your mind, a paper world real, God reeling up
and down landscapes and buildings, knocks down, opens
new roads, doesn't like it, changes again, but there isn't
a seam, His world is onefold and you perceive neither
seam nor contradiction, continuity only…"

Some of Lyacos's poems carry cultural inclinations:

"The slow bells from the church which must be near me
I stopped for a while and waited and now they were
chiming again.And here where I sat, like stains below
the slabs as if blooded.Who was there ringing, guess-
es confused not made clear, who was there ringing the
bell waves going down the dome, the echo of an ocean
that licks on it and drips here.And the flashes through
the window from the one to the other like a search-
light turning around seeking me out.Here, in a flooded
pit full of bodies, branches that cover and float leaves
that float on faces unknown funerary gifts on the side,
phrases by him and the Writ mixed on this page, and
further down sea tombs and then something between
the frozen palms…"

With the exception of a few poems the poems read like quick fiction
enjambed with little punctuation, "Or other marks, or his own parts
that you were reading"

The poets' contemporary writing position is fused with or steeped in
oral tradition and tradition is not a dirty word it is a knowing or
an unknowing, a passing on, where influences come, even when those
influences may come from a lending, or continental cafes, Lyacos is a
master craftsman steering his way through tons of immediate information
or any candle lit for the dead or the coffee house philosophers or mothers'
dire warnings, "This too for a pillow, on top of the bible." or "Remember
to write as much as I can. As much as I remember. So that I can remember."

I love this book, the bringing together, the collage of differences, the
intense focus, the separation of pages, "And then stone yellow gleam
the stones that light up, matches flare again in the room." Every page
inspires a conundrum of thoughts.

Get this book for all your up-to-date-friends who read experimental poetry
or read the master writers. I strongly recommend!

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review

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