Martin Luther King, Jr., on Nonviolence (March 31, 1968)

“It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine.   Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” Address delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. (March 31, 1968)

Read the full transcript at the website of the King Institute, Stanford University.

The image above comes from here, courtesy of the DC Public Library.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Address to End the Vietnam War (April 15, 1967)

“I come to participate in this significant demonstration today because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this mobilization because I cannot be a silent onlooker while evil rages. I am here because I agree with Dante, that: ‘The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.‘ In these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, there is no greater need than for sober thinking, mature judgment, and creative dissent.” [. . .]  –Martin Luther King, Jr., Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (April 15, 1967)

Read the full address here.

Images from the day of the address, including the image pictured at right, can be viewed here.

Langston Hughes, “Harlem’s Bitter Laughter” (October 2, 1948)

“Harlem, the world’s largest urban Negro community, can sometimes laugh at the dog-gonest things. But its laughter is often a bitter laughter — the kind of laughter that, I imagine, reverberates through Dante’s hell when the devil suddenly slips on his own hot pavements and burns his sitter-downer.”   –Langston Hughes, “Harlem’s Bitter Laughter” (October 2, 1948), cited in Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender: Essays on Race, Politics, and Culture (1942-62), ed. Christopher C. De Santis (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1995), pp. 113-114

Ocean Vuong, “Seventh Circle of Earth”

“I wrote ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ [from Vuong’s 2016 collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds] shortly after hearing the news of two gay men being murdered by immolation in Dallas, TX. I originally wrote the poem in tercets, echoing Dante’s terza rima format. In the Inferno, the stanzas work as a network of rooms the speaker moves through as he descends through the circles of hell. In ‘Seventh Circle of Earth,’ however, this grouping felt off, even fraudulent, to me. A persona poem at its core, it takes on the voice of one of the men speaking to his partner. And in the midst of that fraught position, a poem in tercets, or, in other words, a ‘traditional’ poem, felt like a diluted, forced recasting of a horrific event. I ultimately abandoned the poem.

“It was not until three years later, while reading a critical work on violence and scholarship, did I see, more clearly, the footnotes on the bottom of the page. I found myself slipping right to the notes as I progressed, reading them first. They possessed, in that reading, an urgency that began to stitch itself into a fabric of broken utterances fused together by parataxis. It was, in a way, found poetry. That gave me the idea to re-work ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ into a piece written entirely in the footnote. This time, the vast and utter emptiness one confronts on the page felt more faithful to the violent erasure of the two murdered men. It felt right to begin the poem with its own vanishing.” [. . .]  — Ocean Vuong on “Seventh Circle of Earth” for Poetry School

Read the rest of Vuong’s comments and the poem at poetryschool.com.

Contributed by Su Ertekin-Taner (The Bolles School ’22)

Sante Matteo, “The Journey Home in Baseball: The Bible and the Divine Comedy” (2020)

“In the middle of of our industrialized cities, surrounded by concrete, metal, and plastic structures, baseball parks enclose a green field, a vestigial ‘paradise’ in the original Persian sense of the word.  Within that symbolic space a ritual is routinely performed.  Throngs of worshippers (spectators, fans) participate vicariously while members of a revered priestly class (players, coaches, and umpires) re-enact the story of humanity’s exile from Eden and the perennial longing to return there: to make it all the way around back to home base.

“Circling the bases—itself an expression redolent of another perennial quixotic human quest: that of squaring the circle; or inversely in this case, circling the square: the bases forming a square, or diamond, that the base runner circles–and reaching home constitutes a journey analogous to the one that Dante undertakes in his Divine Comedy.  Finding himself lost in a dark wood, Dante sets off–with Virgil and then Beatrice as his first- and third-base ‘coaches’–on a voyage that will take him first through the circles of Hell (first base),  then the slopes of Purgatory (second base), and then the planetary and starry spheres of Paradise (third base), all the way to the Empyrean (home plate), where the souls that have achieved salvation dwell in the presence of God.” [. . .]  — Sante Matteo, “The Journey Home in Baseball: The Bible and the Divine Comedy,” KAIROS Literary Magazine, May 1, 2020

Contributed by Sante Matteo (Miami University, OH)

Inferno Pop-up Book by Massimo Missiroli, with Paolo Rambelli (2020)

La Divina Commedia, composta da Dante Alighieri nei primi vent’anni del XIV secolo, è universalmente ritenuta una delle più grandi opere della letteratura di tutti i tempi. Le illustrazioni per la Commedia di Gustave Dorè sono divenute un riferimento iconografico imprescindibile non solo per i lettori successivi di Dante ma per tutti coloro che hanno cercato di trasporlo sul grande schermo.

“Per la prima volta Dante e Dorè diventano ora protagonisti di un libro pop-up – cioè di ciò che è più vicino alla dinamicità del cinema pur conservando la forma base del libro – grazie all’opera di uno dei più apprezzati paper engineer a livello internazionale: Massimo Missiroli. Il cartotecnico italiano, già vincitore del Premio Andersen nel 2001 e candidato al premio Meggendorfer nel 2004, ha infatti realizzato, in collaborazione con Paolo Rambelli dell’Università di Bologna per la parte testuale, una straordinaria versione pop-up dell’Inferno Dantesco, sfruttando per ogni illustrazione una diversa tecnica di sviluppo verticale delle figure, così da rinnovare ad ogni pagina lo stupore per la capacità evocativa del capolavoro dedicato da Dorè al capolavoro di Dante.

“Un’opera unica ed originale che i collezionisti di pop-up, così come gli amanti di Dante e di Dorè non possono non possedere.”  — Project Website

See a prototype of the pop-up book on YouTube (last accessed May 24, 2020).

To help fund the project, visit the Kickstarter page (expires June 21, 2020).

“Celebrate Dante and Help Fight the Coronavirus”

 

“Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz has a heart for God. It’s evident in his works, such as ‘Homeless Jesus,’ his popular portrayal of Jesus sleeping on a park bench, and more recently, ‘Angels Unawares,’ Schmalz’ three-ton sculpture based on Hebrews 13:2. That latter sculpture, which depicts a boat carrying 140 migrants and refugees from periods of stress throughout recorded history, was unveiled by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square in September 2019.

“In Italy, March 25 [2020] was the first official ‘Dante Day’ — a day dedicated by the Italian government to celebrate the accomplishments of the Florentine poet who penned the long narrative poem titled The Divine Comedy. On that day, Schmalz introduced a new set of sculptures through an online book which will include a series of 100 sculptures, representing all 100 cantos in the Divine Comedy. Modern readers have found the existing translations of the Divine Comedy from the original Italian, including one translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, somewhat cumbersome — so Schmalz is partnering with translator Daniel Fitzpatrick, who is working to produce an easy-to-read version that will appeal to a wide audience.

[. . .]

“Schmalz had originally intended for the book’s initial release to be in hardcover March 25, 2021, when the nation of Italy will celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. That plan changed, however, when Schmalz became aware of the scope of the tragedy emerging in Italy due to the novel coronavirus. ‘As I was coming to my studio early last Friday,’ Schmalz told the Register, ‘I was listening to the news about the horrors and the tragedy that’s happening in Italy. I thought, “Isn’t it ironic? Here I am, creating this greatest hero of Italy, while Italy is going through such a horrible situation!” Then I put the two things together: I could use the book to help Italy!’

“Daniel Fitzpatrick, the translator, agreed, and plans were made to release the book of poetry and art in a series format, and to donate all proceeds from sales of the e-book to help the hospitals of Italy better care for their critically ill patients. For a donation of just $5, readers can sign up to receive two cantos each week — one on Wednesday and the second on Sunday — beginning with Dante’s first vision of the Inferno, and culminating in the Paradiso, in time for Italy’s 700th anniversary celebration.”    –Kathy Schiffer, National Catholic Register, March 30, 2020

See our original post about Timothy Schmalz here.

“Dante’s Inferno: Navigating the Complexities of Hell in As Above, So Below

These words scrawled across the walls beneath the Paris Catacombs mark the entrance to Hell for the characters in As Above, So Below. They herald in a nightmarish final act. The very same words that mark the gates to Hell in writer Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first part of his epic poem of Divine ComedyInferno tells of Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. Their journey begins on Good Friday, and the pair emerges from Hell early on Easter morning under a starry sky. Though As Above, So Below draws from various mythologies, it’s Dante’s Inferno and its complex rendering of Hell that most closely mirrors protagonist Scarlett Marlowe’s quest, making for an atypical found footage film that offers impressively layered world-building.

[. . .]

The only way out is down. That they descend through a well is significant. Scarlett explains the phrase “as above, so below” is the key to all magic. What happens in one reality occurs in another, presenting a bizarre mirror-like symmetry to their voyage. The group begins by climbing down a well, and they end it by going down another well. In Inferno, wells play a part in getting Dante and his guide to the eighth and ninth circles. Later, Dante and Virgil finally reach the center of Hell and begin their escape by continuing downward. Dante is convinced they’re returning to Hell, only to realize gravity has changed, and they’re climbing up to the surface. Dante, half-way through his life, begins his journey spiritually lost. More than just a guide to Hell, Virgil becomes his guide to virtue and mortal. That’s mirrored in Scarlett, reckless and reeling from the loss of her father, and George, the strict rule-abiding ethical anchor. Much of George’s fear for breaking the law stems from spending time in a Turkish prison before the events of the film, which also parallel’s Virgil in that he detailed his personal trip through Hell in his poem Aeneid. ”    –Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting, April 10, 2020

See our original post on As Above, So Below here.

“A Dante-esque Limbo”: Unemployment Claims in the Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic

“With a flood of unemployment claims continuing to overwhelm many state agencies, economists say the job losses may be far worse than government tallies indicate.

“The Labor Department said Thursday that 3.8 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the six-week total to 30 million. But researchers say that as the economy staggers under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of others have lost jobs but have yet to see benefits.

[. . .]

NYTimes-Coronavirus-Pandemic-Unemployment-Dante-Limbo

Photo by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

“New York has started processing claims from gig workers and freelancers, but one of those, Seth Flicker of Brooklyn, hasn’t had any luck.

“‘Not a phone call nor an email, nothing,’ said Mr. Flicker, 52, who applied in mid-March after his work as a handyman came to a halt. ‘We are stuck with absolutely nowhere to turn,’ he said, calling his situation ‘a Dante-esque limbo.’

“Mr. Flicker was able to delay paying his electric bill without a penalty and sent a check to the phone company, but he is worried about covering May’s rent. ‘I haven’t figured it out yet,’ he said. ‘It’s nerve-racking.'”  –Nelson D. Schwartz, Tiffany Hsu, and Patricia Cohen, “Stymied in Seeking Benefits, Millions of Unemployed Go Uncounted,” The New York Times, April 30, 2020

Contributed by Martin Kavka, Florida State University

Alison Cornish and Stefano Albertini on Dantedì 2020

In recognition of the first annual Dantedì (March 25, 2020), the director of NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, Stefano Albertini, interviewed Alison Cornish, Chair of the Department of Italian Studies at NYU and Acting President of the Dante Society of America. They conducted the interview virtually, during shelter-at-home orders resulting from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on her experience teaching Purgatorio during the pandemic, Cornish comments that Purgatorio is “about community after traumatic separation” (7:34), a community that is recreated through shared cultural rites like liturgy and song, forms of virtual embrace, and collective suffering.

The interview is available to view on YouTube (last accessed April 10, 2020). The comments on Purgatorio can be heard at 6:00-15:34.