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

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Immaculate Conception Mother’s Club by David R. Surette

The Immaculate Conception Mother’s Club

by David R. Surette
Koenisha Publications
Hamilton MI
Softbound, 85 pages, No Price Indicated
Copyright © 2010 by David R. Surette
ISBN-13: 978-0-9800098-6-6

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There are far too many poets who simply are not accessible, whatever that means. Perhaps it what down south they call “high falutin’ language.” Perhaps it is what some
consider “academic poetry,” “obscure” poetry or “confusing” poetry. With David R.
Surette, none of these apply. He is easily accessible and straight to the point.

I have had never read Surette before, nor had I see him read. Now I am sorry that I
had not done both. Surette lives and teaches in southeastern Massachusetts, but his
poetry in this volume is based in Malden, Massachusetts. It is down to earth, gritty,
honest, capable of making a reader whose past is similar associate quite readily with
his poetry. In fact, the poetry is a series of vignettes, incidents from the poet’s life,
experienced like a Mark Wahlberg movie. The best part is, you don’t have to be
Catholic to dig him and his poetry.

And if Catholic means universal, then Surette can universally touch readers of every
persuasion, even atheists.

Here is one page from a book of 85 pages:

The Boston Arena

It was another penalty in a career of penalties.
He chopped the forearms of a winger speeding by.
“Two minutes, slashing,” barked the ref.
He snapped. He choked up on his stick, cocked
it, and with all his strength, sent it
helicopting through the air,
clearing the boards, the glass,
climbing higher and higher,
until pausing at its apex, descended,
still spinning, cracking a woman in the head,
knocking her out.
The woman was the kid’s mother.
What are the odds?
He had sent his stick spinning into the stands,
all 4,000 waiting seats, maybe 200 occupied,
and hit his own mother.
The ref tacked on a 10-minutes misconduct.
The rumor spread that, after school, he hooked up
with the mob, collecting, leg breaking, but that
was the rumor for every tough Italian kid we knew.
Maybe he believed he was fated for the work
foreshadowed by that day when
even his own mother didn’t love him.

If there is a weakness in Surette’s poetry, some of the poems have last lines that perhaps should have been deleted, but the poem itself is still worth the read. In fact, this is a book
one should keep, put on the bookshelf and periodically open to read some of the poems.

Monday, December 06, 2010


REVIEW OF “GUD, GREATEST UNCOMMON DENOMINATOR” MAGAZINE, biannual, Issue 6, Summer 2010, 206 pages, fiction, poetry, artwork, produced by Greatest Uncommon Denominator Publishing, PO Box 1537, Laconia, NH 03247,$12
perfect bound, $3.50 electronic copy,,

Review by Barbara Bialick

I’ll get this fact out right away. GUD is very good, but I’m only reviewing it from the poetry perspective. There are only 12 poems in this issue. But they fit in visually with the other genres mentioned. A good-looking magazine with a surrealistic, yet contemporary theme, it is not so dark that it’s inaccessible to general readers. It’s strong on imagery and symbolism as in the poem, “Whale on the Roof” by Rose Lemberg:

“My roof is flat, and /there was once a whale on it, red with the dawn,/toothlessly grinning—and grass grew on its back...”.Not wanting to mow the lawn because that was “bad for the environment”, she still had to live with the city coming to mow “the hippie grass down…”

Another strong poem—actually they’re all strong poems—is “Again” by Molly Horan:
she thinks back to a younger age—around September 11, 2001—when she wondered if only she’d not done certain things maybe it wouldn’t have happened. This combination of superstition and imagery is compelling. “Maybe if I’d been younger/hadn’t let my bangs grow out/hadn’t bought the lipstick/too dark to be a Kool Aid stain…” The school sends home a “crumpled” note with her sister about not watching the news: “Every time the clip plays/your child will think the planes are crashing again.”

On it’s website the magazine reveals that it comes out twice a year and requests you submit online. They call themselves an award-winning print/pdf magazine that is also available on Kindle. They are currently reading for their summer 2011 issue.

It looks like an intriguing magazine to publish in, but it better be good, as the pun goes. I’ll close with some lines from “Crumpled Receipts” by Bryan C. Murray:
“I took my vitamins today, by alphabet,/the way my Centrum dictates…Like most people, I don’t trust return clauses…people always get carried away: men exchanging/ex-wives/doctors calling patients back, reinserting tumors…” And so on.

Give it a read and try to get read if you can.