Nuggets’ Ninth Circle of Hell

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Posted on the blog Ink & Snow (December 21, 2012).

“Francesca Says More” by Olena Kalytiak Davis

“that maiden thump was book on floor, butOlena-Kalytiak-Davis-Francesca-Says-More-Dante
does it really matter who kissed who
first or then who decided to go further?
lower? faster? naturally, we took
turns on top. now here, now there, and up
and down… once it started no one even thought to think to stop.
so, we have holes inside our souls,
but mustn’t we begin by filling others’?
god gave us lips and hands and parts
that cannot possibly be saved for prayer. nor by.
i will not name name, claim fame by how well
or who i fucked or why, it happens all the time.
and it’s you, white pilgrim, whom next galehot seeks.

fuck. we didn’t read again for weeks.”

“Francesca Says More,” from The Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems by Olena Kalytiak Davis

Of the poem, Dan Chiasson (The New Yorker) comments, “The speaker is a contemporary version of Dante’s tragic heroine Francesca, condemned to suffer in Hell with her lover, Paolo. The form — a form that Dante helped to invent — is the sonnet, here reduced to its rudiments: fourteen lines, a rumor of pentameter, a tart couplet at the close. The poem, one of Davis’s many ‘shattered sonnets,’ as she has called them, draws these lines in order to color outside of them; her small ‘i’ isn’t so much an homage to Cummings as it is a nod to text messages and Gchat, forms of written communication that operate under the conditions of instantaneousness previously reserved for speech. It was reading about the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, as Dante tells us, that got Francesca in trouble to begin with; it was reading Francesca’s story about the dangers of reading that resulted in the book’s ‘maiden thump’ as it was unceremoniously kicked off the bed and replaced by the book Davis wrote.” — Dan Chiasson, “You and Me Both,” The New Yorker (Dec. 8, 2014)

Contributed by Silvia Valisa (Florida State University)