Dante Body Painting Contest

Fifteen artists from around Italy met in Marina di Ravenna for the first competition of “Body Painting- Dante e la Divina Commedia” on February 23, 2019.  Il Resto del Carlino – Ravenna

Contributed by Emma Marigliano

William Barr’s Circle of Hell


[. . .] “There are circles of hell for men such as Trump, and also for their enablers. For people who ought to know better but who go along with the inane, violent, crooked impulses of The Boss for reasons of political expediency. Barr is one such man.

“Dante reserved an entire section of hell for opportunists. Such people would, he wrote, be condemned to chase banners, and in turn to be chased by hornets and wasps, for all eternity.

“And this blind life of theirs is so debased,
They envious are of every other fate.
No fame of them the world permits to be;
Misericord and Justice both disdain them.”    –Sasha Abramsky, The Abramsky Report, April 27, 2019

IKEA: The 10th circle of hell


“It’s fitting that IKEA stores are organised in a series of winding circles with no easy escape. It’s not unlike the circles of hell that the protagonist of Dante’s Inferno must wander before heading on to Purgatory and then Heaven.

“But unlike the soul in Dante’s epic poem, you never get to Heaven. What awaits you once you’ve managed to locate and then purchase your Tuffing and Malfors is yet another circle of hell. This one is in your own home and the instrument of torture is an Allen key.” [. . .]

–Kasey Edwards, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 15, 2019

how the night came, Dante’s Purgatory (2019 album)

how the night came is a soundscape creator and instrumental music artist based in Japan. In fall 2019 how the night came released three albums based on each of the three canticles of Dante’s Commedia: Dante’s Inferno (September 7, 2019), Dante’s Purgatory (October 12, 2019), and Dante’s Paradise (October 27, 2019). Each of these (especially Inferno and Purgatory) are grounded in close interpretation of and serious reflection on the poem, as evidenced by the descriptions given in the liner notes.

Of particular interest is how the night came’s sonic interpretation of Dante’s Purgatory. The description explains, “Since the setting of Purgatory is an earthquake prone mountain covered with walls of rock, massive boulders, stone steps, white marble carvings, the prideful being punished by bearing the weight of heavy rocks, stone effigies, and pavements, I wanted to incorporate stone into my composition.” Some of the album’s sounds are created using acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, keyboard, stones, chopsticks, and silence. Of the theme “BEATRICE,” which marks the arrival of Beatrice in Purgatorio 30 (15:57-16:30 in the album’s single track), the artist writes:

BEATRICE is 33 seconds of silence. Her demolition of Dante is a staggering moment of world literature. Here, we read a medieval male poet attacking himself through the voice of a female. Initially, Beatrice turns to the angels to lambaste Dante, and when she finally addresses him… it is extremely painful for us to hear. I tried several musical themes for this moment, but they all failed miserably. I then recalled the scene in Taxi Driver when Travis (Robert De Niro) makes a humiliating phone call to Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) – Martin Scorcese has the camera turn away, as if to spare us seeing another human being suffer the pain of rejection. And thus silence – in this case, the musical equivalent of pulling the camera away – finally offered itself as the most fitting means for communicating Dante’s sense of loss, guilt, shame and inadequacy.

“(Perhaps this silence can also be heard as an expression of the absence of Virgil, who left Dante at the end of Canto 27).

“The silence is broken by the return of the Earthly Paradise theme, but this time it is quantized, the newly punctuated rhythms signifying the beginning of the strict realignment of Dante’s soul.”   —how the night came’s WordPress site (accessed May 18, 2021)

Listen on YouTube, bandcamp, or Soundcloud.

Leonard Kress, “That Day We Read No More” (2019)

A vengeful sheering Great Lakes wind,
uprooting trees, flinging roof shingles—
split stumps and flayed branches. A whole dangle
of modifiers. Infinitives finding
syntax amid the wreckage. I can almost
make out the spoken scrawl, part malignant rant,
and part avowal, part warning and part advance
directive. Yet what I hear most is boast

when winds subside: Love led me to betray,
and the agony that betrayal once begot
afflicts me now, like you, who’ll stay
to hear my tale. You, like me, who sought
to authorize illicit love—you’re doomed
like some obsessive-compulsive, forever caught

in the act of betrayal. Forever damned.
Give me details, I demand, hoping
our stories do not match. There’s no stopping,
she says—Francesca, mother, who charmed
Paolo with her quizzing glance. I asked
my would-be lover to admit out loud
with certain sighs he wanted me. He held
his breath long as he could. And then, unmasked,

indifference and restraint abandoned, distance
obliterated—we agreed to read
together the tale of Lancelot’s romance
with his King’s wife Guinevere, and the bed
in which they found delight. That pleasure is
now pain—in inverse proportion to the deed.

Leonard Kress’s poem “That Day We Read No More,” a rewriting of Inferno 5, was published in The Orpheus Complex by Main Street Rag Press in 2009. It is available for purchase on the Main Street Rag website. The poem was featured in NonBinary Review #19, a 2019 collection of poems dedicated to Dante’s Inferno, available from Zoetic Press. Many thanks to the author for permission to publish the poem on Dante Today.

The Wondering Mother’s Tenth Circle of Hell

“Dante only wrote about the nine circles of hell because he was a man who never had to go to the DMV and the social security office in the same day.  But I have seen this place…I have experienced it…and I lived to tell the tale.

“When your beautiful, perfect, amazing child is born, there are many adult responsibilities you have to handle, in addition to cuddles.  One of those is making sure that your baby has a social security number, if for no other reason than you are going to want that tax write off come April.  Our hospital has a wonderful woman that comes to your room, helps you fill out lots of paperwork, and then mails everything to social security for you.  How wonderful!  All you have to do is wait for their card to come in the mail.

“So, I waited.

“And waited.”   –Britney Lowe, The Wondering Mother, 2019

Read the full blog entry here.

“The Extra Circles of Hell, A Short Tour”

“There’s a lot of self-righteous assholes out there who think they’re going to heaven. If an afterlife exists, they’re in for a tiny surprise — probably. Dante didn’t know how things would turn out when he wrote the original Divine Comedy. But he knew all about hypocrisy.

“That’s why he created a special circle of hell for each type of sinner. Because they all deserve each other, and their own special punishment.

“Dante originally envisioned nine circles of hell. Just nine? Seriously? We’re gonna need more circles…”   –Jessica Wildfire, Splattered, 2019

Read the full article here.

Dantedì and the Italian Migrant Crisis


“Among supporters for the Dante day is Italy’s minister for foreign affairs Enzo Moavero Milanesi, who recently expressed his enthusiasm for the project in an article penned for Corriere. ‘Dante is fully and pervasively part of the genetic code of what it is to be Italian,’ Moavero Milanesi wrote. Given that Dante’s poem is heavily Catholic, and shows Prophet Mohammed split in half by a demon for ‘sowing schism,’ conflating Dante with modern Italian culture reflects ideas that are outdated – and nationalistic.

“This uncritical celebration of the past diverts attention from the dark conditions on Italy’s shores. While Dante’s pilgrim makes an arduous but enlightening journey towards paradise in order to escape the inferno, Moavero Milanesi and Salvini would prefer that the migrants remain in limbo. Rather than supporting their assimilation, Moavero Milanesi has laid out a plan that advises migrants against attempting the crossing. [. . .]   –Emma Leech, “A campaign to commemorate Dante distracts from a crisis on Italy’s coastline,” The New Statesman (July 30, 2019)

The Five Quintets (poetry)

the-five-quintets-poetry-2019-sojourners“In The Five Quintets, a poetic tour de force by Micheal O’Siadhail, Kavanagh’s quip is flavorfully borne out. Quintets offers a sustained reflection on Western modernity (and its yet unnamed aftermath) in the vein of The Divine Comedy, Dante’s sustained reflection on medieval Europe (and its aftermath, the Renaissance).

“O’Siadhail (pronounced O’Sheel) inspects 400 years of Anglo-Atlantic culture—artistic creativity, economics, politics, science, and ‘the search for meaning’—with the skillful hand of a citizen-poet, refracted through an Irish Catholic soul. Dublin born and educated, now poet in residence at Union Theological Seminary in New York, O’Siadhail embodies the vatic tradition of the Hibernian Gael—poet, prophet, priest, and, at times, jester.” [. . .]    –Rose Marie Berger, SOJOURNERS, April, 2019.

“How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think”

“Our ancestors developed their ideas of Hell by drawing on the pains and the deprivations that they knew on earth. Those imaginings shaped our understanding of life before death, too. They still do.

[. . .]

“The great poetic example of the blurriness between the everyday and the ever after is Dante’s Inferno, which begins with the narrator ‘midway upon the journey of our life,’ having wandered away from the life of God and into a ‘forest dark.’ That wood, full of untamed animals and fears set loose, leads the unwitting pilgrim to Virgil, who acts as his guide through the ensuing ordeal, and whose Aeneid, itself a recapitulation of the Odyssey, acts as a pagan forerunner to the Inferno. This first canto of the poem, regrettably absent from the ‘Book of Hell,’ reads as a kind of psychological-metaphysical map, marking the strange route along which one person’s private trouble leads both outward and downward, toward the trouble of the rest of the world.

[. . .]

“Dante, writing in the early fourteenth century, drew on a bounty of hellish material, from Greek, Roman, and, of course, Christian literature, which is rife with horrible visions of Hell.”   –Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 2019

Read the full article here.