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

Getty-images-unidentified-migrant-tombs-Lampedusa

“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.

Theo Wujcik’s “Gates of Hell” (1987)

“One of Tampa Bay’s best-known artists, Theo Wujcik (1936-2014), spent a decade creating a series drawn from the dark and profound literary classic, Dante’s Inferno. Now, those extraordinary paintings are the theme for Theo Wujcik: Cantos, a special exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. This exhibition celebrates the work of Theo Wujcik (1936–2014), with a focus on the literary references in his work. A fixture of the Ybor City art scene, Wujcik was an accomplished master printer and painter whose expansive practice engaged deeply with art historical tradition and the global contemporary art world.

“This exhibition will premiere the Museum’s newest accession of Wujcik’s work, the diptych Gates of Hell (1987), which complements Canto II (1997), also in the collection. Both of these paintings are based on Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s (1265–1321) Inferno, the first part of the epic poem Divine Comedy. Also featured will be selections from the artist’s personal notebooks, collage studies, and a number of select loans.”  —Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, 2019

Learn more about Theo Wujcik’s exhibition here.

“The List: The nine circles of Columbus Hell”

Editor at Columbus Alive constructs Columbus, Ohio’s own version of Dante’s Circles of Hell.

“Who needs Dante? Let ‘Alive’ lead you down into the darkness.

“The Hell City Tattoo Fest, which celebrates everything ink-drenched, begins on Friday, April 26, and runs through Sunday, with action centered Downtown at the Hyatt Regency (visit hellcity.com for more information). With that in mind, and in the spirit of Dante’s Inferno, we thought we’d assemble our own, localized Circles of Hell,”   –Andy Downing, Columbus Alive, 2019

Read the full article here.

Seventh Circle Hot Sauces

seventh-circle-hot-sauce-2019“Seventh Circle is a boutique hot sauce brand focused on unique flavor combinations, natural ingredients, and small batch production. The name is derived from Dante’s Inferno. In this story, the seventh circle of hell is reserved for those who have committed violence. Hot sauce fiends could be seen as committing violence upon themselves. Through texture, color, and imagery I wanted to create a cohesive brand that represents it’s namesake and would be attractive to hot sauce aficionados. The first step in creating the brand was constructing a logo. The logo is the vehicle that drives a brand, and is part of all touch points. In exploring the logo, I wanted to create a mark that was easily recognizable and conveyed the brand’s messaging in a simple but clever way. The phrase ‘You reap what you sow’ stuck out in my mind, as the seventh circle of hell is for those who have committed violence, and in this case on themselves. I went with the scythe, and illustrated it to be in the shape of the number seven.” [. . .]    —Jake Neece Design and Illustrations, 2019.

Twitter is the 45th Circle of Hell

“Unknown to Dante, there is a 45th circle of Hell known as ‘Twitter.’ It used to take 140 steps to get there, but after the expansion of residents it is now 280 paces to reach your destination. To be sure, calling this beloved social media network the 45th level of Hell is quite an accusation, and I must support it with evidence. Well, these days I should at least try to support it with evidence. Come to think of it, who needs evidence when I have Twitter? Alas, I will do my best to use logic. This will make one time in a row.” [. . .]    — Ian Winer, Medium, August 2, 2019.