Olivia Holmes and Véronique Plesh on Purg. 19 for “Canto per Canto”

“Dante has a strange dream in which he is visited by a Siren, who is not all she seems. Professors Olivia Holmes and Véronique Plesh unpack this strange apparition and the many ups and downs in this canto, as Dante reaches the terrace of the avaricious and the prodigal, where the souls, including a former Pope, lie facing the ground to atone for their sins. Olivia and Véronique reflect on what the opposition between movement and stasis means for us, living in the confinement of Covid-19 precautions, and consider the racist paradigms of beauty and virtue that underpin Dante’s vision in Purgatorio 19.” – Kate Travers

Watch or listen to the video “Purgatorio 19: Stasis and Motion: False and True Images” here.

Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time is a collaborative initiative between New York University’s Department of Italian Studies and Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, and the Dante Society of America. The aim is to produce podcast conversations about all 100 cantos of the Divine Comedy, to be completed within the seventh centenary of Dante’s death in 2021.

Amiri Baraka, “A Chase (Alighieri’s Dream)” (1967)

The following is an excerpt from Amiri Baraka’s 1967 prose poem “A Chase (Alighieri’s Dream),” the first piece in a collection of short stories called Tales.

“Place broken: their faces sat and broke each other. As suns, Sons gone tired in the heart and left the south. The North, years later she’d wept for him drunk and a man finally they must have thought. In the dark, he was even darker. Wooden fingers running. Wind so sweet it drank him.

“Faces broke. Charts of age. Worn thru, to see black years. Bones in iron faces. Steel bones. Cages of decay. Cobblestones are wet near the army stores. Beer smells, Saturday. To now, they have passed so few lovely things.”

Read more at Akashic Books.

See also Dennis Looney, Freedom Readers: The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011), pp. 165-166.