Z213: EXIT

Wrong Literary Magazine

Published: Mar 2011
Location: Washington DC, USA
Reviewed by: Monet P. Thomas
Review of book: Z213: EXIT

The art of translation is a gift and we, as English speakers and readers, have Shorsha Sullivan to thank for bringing us the work of Greek poet Dimitris Lyacos. In Z213:Exit: Poena Dani, Lyacos’ middle collection in a series of three, we experience the world through the eyes of a prisoner as he escapes from jail and travels through a dark, surreal world. The blocked prose poems fly in the face of the conservative conventions of poetry here in America because these poems go beyond the debate between the narrative and the lyric poem, often being both simultaneously.Dimitris Lyacos is not only a poet but also a playwright which is evident in how each poem is written like a scene in the prisoner’s life. The pacing of Z213:Exit also mimics a play, moving at times quickly through action and then slowing down for reflection. The mastery of Sullivan’s translation comes through in the punctuation and word choices she makes. The common reader may have no knowledge of how the syntax and meter work in the Greek language, but Sullivan’s translations make us unsuspecting students and we learn to follow the unfamiliar rhythms.Repetition is also important to these poems and we see it used in several effective ways: to reiterate, to counter and often to characterize the prisoner in his disbelief, in his shock or as a reaction to what is happening to him. We see it here, when the prisoner, just escaped, comes upon a wounded soldier:…A soldier beside a nichein the wall laid on his side, eyes closed, a blanket over hisfeet, a pile of clothes beside him – uniforms – a kit-bagbehind his back. I went, pulled out a pair of trousers and ajacket, eyes closed, a little blood under his nose, he raisedhis head gently, wiped it off with his sleeve. I returnedto the toilets to change, came back left my clothes onthe heap. Eyes closed, a drop of blood under his nose. Ilooked for a pair of boots from the kit-bag and put themon there, sat down beside him.Midway through Z213:Exit, the strict prose form is broken and the reader is thrust into a wandering form of line breaks and white space. Up until this point we were in the head of the prisoner, experiencing his disorientation from his perspective and once the form changes, we feel disoriented as well. Lyacos even references the feeling in one of the broken forms, “…Line sets off and fades away…”What is Z213:Exit? What will happen to the prisoner? What will he learn? And what will we learn with him? These are the questions that Sorsha Sullivan allow us to begin to answer with her translation of Dimitris Lyacos’s Z213:Exit: Poena Dani.And one reading is not enough to do it justice. End

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