With the people from the bridge

With the people from the bridge

Poena Damni vol. 2

By Dimitris Lyacos

Price: £9.00

ISBN: 978 1 910323 15 1

“There was a room and next to it one more, and another one beside that and another, and another, a city, but there were no streets there were no passages and there was no going from one place to the other, a hive they were digging and opening and closing from above. Warehouse and the boxes they were lowering in. Mouths open, opening and fed from above. They were closing, crumbling inside, opening, lowering again, opening closing crumbling opening only on top. A city you couldn’t go anywhere. One would fall on the other and then they would go and bring more. And then they would wait for the mouths to empty. But the time would come and some of them would wake up below and search for an opening to get out and someone would hear them, someone or a dog and it would come and dig and get in and would open for them and they would get out, and a few had got out someone was saying and if we let them they will all get outside, and they will, and they will come and take us all there and no man will be left. And they were trying to find out at night nobody slept somebody saw her when she came to take him she took him with her she will take others too hurry up we must go. Next morning they should gather together to go and check if she was still in. Dig and a few others to look on. But it’s like, it’s like digging the sea and the more you dig the more you upset them”.

Dimitris Lyacos is a leading figure in contemporary avant-garde writing. His trilogy Poena Damni (Z213: EXIT, With The People From The Bridge, The First Death), has been translated into six major languages and is widely performed across Europe and the USA. The work in its current form developed gradually over the course of twenty years with subsequent editions and excerpts appearing in journals around the world, as well as in dialogue with the diverse range of sister projects it has inspired – drama, contemporary dance, video and sculpture installations, opera and contemporary music. Classified as postmodern and cross-genre, the trilogy relies, however, on a well-defined structure while exploring classical themes: the scapegoat, the return of the dead, physical suffering and mental illness. A journey to a mystifying, unfamiliar world straddles and crosses perceived boundaries of literary form. The outcome is an alternative, allegorical universe, the forging of a new myth that reaches beyond postmodern dystopia.

Reviews

The Precarious Destitute: A Possible Commentary on the Lives of Unwanted Immigrants. Review by Michael O’ Sullivan. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Issue 28, June 2015, Hong Kong.

Despite the reluctance to pin Lyacos’s work down to any specific site of struggle, the reader comes away also having found in his words one of the most evocative and moving depictions of the sense of terror and hope that so many precarious lives experience today in making their journeys by boat or by foot to the various promised lands of plenty

With the People from the Bridge: Poena Damni by Dimitris Lyacos. Review by Bethany W. Pope. The Ofi Press Magazine, October 2015, Mexico City, Mexico.

The interesting thing is that, after so long spent in this mad, desperate
company the sane boundaries of what we think of as the ‘real’ world begin to darkle and shift. Perhaps the dead can rise again. Perhaps the world isending only to begin afresh. This is Lyacos’ great gift. Shorsha Sullivan’s great skill is that he was able to translate it so seamlessly,so well, that his voice disappeared into the margins.

With the people from the bridge, by Dimitris Lyacos. A review by Max Goodwin Brown. Versal magazine, March 2015, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Most striking, though, is how densely layered the whole thing is. Voices drift in from the distant past and the literal beyond, crackling out of a TV set or issuing from a cassette-player. The piece reads like a cross-section of a microcosm, with the prose inserts making you aware not only of the shadowy underworld of the performance space but also of the world outside it – trains pass by overhead, audience members get up and leave, even a few of the performers creep out through back-exits – and of the world outside the text itself, i.e. that of you, the reader. In this way, Lyacos allows you to peek through the gaps; you don’t see all the way down, but you do get an idea of just how far down it goes. 

From the ruins of Europe: Lyacos’s Debt Riddled Greece. A review by Joseph Labernik. Tikkun, August 2015, California, USA.

In the end, categorizing With the people from the bridge seems somewhat beside the point. From the poem’s decrepit setting comes a narrative that purposefully resists classification, if only to offer the reader a truth both pragmatic and optimistic. Those willing to grapple with Lyacos’s verse will find themselves both frustrated and touched; perhaps both. Indeed, that ambivalence is precisely the point, as Virginia Woolf long ago said.

With the people from the bridge. Review by Artemis Michailidou. Grey Sparrow Journal, Spring 2015. Minnesota USA.

From Beckett, Dali, Dante, Sartre, and Kafka (already mentioned by critics such as Michael O’Sullivan, Allison Elliott, or Manos Georginis) to Edgar Allan Poe, Juan Rulfo, or even Sarah Kane, Lyacos’s writing reveals an unparalleled understanding of the importance of having formidable artistic molds, and of the need to break them or reshape them.

The Nightmare Continues in With the People from the Bridge. Review by Julie Kovacs. Exercise Bowler, Issue 21, Summer 2015. Florida USA.

Lyacos effectively blends such science fiction elements like the above with religious, as in the first poem, where the narrator reads from one of the Gospels, where Jesus expels an unclean spirit named Legion from within a man (Mark 5:9). It is the balance of these two elements that has the reader experiencing the feeling of being trapped between heaven and hell, wondering which destination is likely to be permanent yet hoping for the best option.

With the People from the Bridge. Review by Chris Duncan. Ray’s Road Review, Summer 2015. Tennessee, USA.

I recommend With the people from the bridge because Lyacos delivers a story in which we can all relate. We all have or will experience loss. The vehicle in which he takes the reader on this sad journey is unique (and the genre is…heck if I know), which is a good thing. I like works of art that aren’t easily definable. I also like journeys that are fragmentary because all of our journeys are fragmentary. We’re all trying to get somewhere or to someone. We’re all on a bridge.

With the people from the bridge. Review by Raquel Thorne. Cahoodaloodaling Magazine. Arizona, May 2015.

Like any great love story, our protagonist here worries, “eventually they will get/to us/they will separate us”. Unlike most love stories, she is already dead, and it is her corpse he clings to. Overall, the text is ambiguous but startlingly human.

With the people from the bridge. Review by Judy Swann. Portage Magazine. Wisconsin, April 2015.

There are other metaphors of course — in fact the entire piece is a Christian metaphor. Deprived of the beatific vision, this is what you get: life on the bridge. Implicit in this equation is a totalitarian mindset little valorized by modern sensibilities. Whereas William Carlos Williams or Walt Whitman are poets of a secular Word Incarnate, Lyacos is the poet of the secular Word Impersonal.

With the people from the bridge. Review by Mallory Smart. Maudlin House Magazine. Chicago, March 2015.

Lyacos, a prominent writer in the avant-garde movement, creates a somber and bitter tone in this exploration that takes the shape of an allegory for post industrialized society with the oft used metaphorical vampires.

With the people from the bridge. Review by Irene Koronas. Boston Small Press And Poetry Scene. January 2015 Boston USA.

Yes being Greek adds to my gratitude for such a poet who does not come across the ocean that often any more. I exaggerate as i am prone to do, yet, this trilogy is masterful and it comes to us only once in a lifetime.