Thomas Centolella, “In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love”

Although the most direct reference is to the 16th century Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross, Thomas Centolella’s poem also recalls the pilgrim’s examination on love by Saint John in Paradiso 26:

“In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love”Thomas-Centolella-In-the-Evening-We-Shall-Be-Examined-on-Love-Paradiso
St. John of the Cross

And it won’t be multiple choice,
though some of us would prefer it that way.
Neither will it be essay, which tempts us to run on
when we should be sticking to the point, if not together.
In the evening there shall be implications
our fear will change to complications. No cheating,
we’ll be told, and we’ll try to figure the cost of being true
to ourselves. In the evening when the sky has turned
that certain blue, blue of exam books, blue of no more
daily evasions, we shall climb the hill as the light empties
and park our tired bodies on a bench above the city
and try to fill in the blanks. And we won’t be tested
like defendants on trial, cross-examined
till one of us breaks down, guilty as charged. No,
in the evening, after the day has refused to testify,
we shall be examined on love like students
who don’t even recall signing up for the course
and now must take their orals, forced to speak for once
from the heart and not off the top of their heads.
And when the evening is over and it’s late,
the student body asleep, even the great teachers
retired for the night, we shall stay up
and run back over the questions, each in our own way:
what’s true, what’s false, what unknown quantity
will balance the equation, what it would mean years from now
to look back and know
we did not fail.

From Thomas Centolella’s Lights and Mysteries (1995). See the text of the poem and other poems by Centolella at poetryfoundation.org.

Gregory Bellow, “Crises of the Spirit: Dante and Bellow”

Greg-Bellow-Crises-of-the-Spirit-Dante-Saul-Bellow

In an essay entitled “Crises of the Spirit: Dante and Bellow,” Gregory Bellow, oldest son of Saul Bellow and author of Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir, compares three of his father’s novels to Dante’s three canticles. “Crises of the Spirit” parallels the pilgrim’s psycho-spiritual crisis and recovery with those of Bellow’s characters, and with the novelist’s own biography. Using private anecdotes and personal recollections, Gregory Bellow traces his father’s mid-life “crisis of spirit” through the Dantean themes of evil, spiritual cleansing, and love.

A PDF copy of the essay is available here, with permission of the author.

Valentino Dress at the Met Gala 2016

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Rachel McAdams in a gold-beaded Valentino dress with lines from Dante’s Divine Comedy.    —US Magazine, May 2, 2016

Contributed by Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio

“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)

Guy Raffa on Dante and Same-Sex Love

In a response to Rod Dreher’s 2015 book How Dante Can Save Your Life, Guy Raffa (creator of the Danteworlds website) discusses the question of same-sex love in the Comedy:

Raffa-on-Dreher-Dante-Same-Sex-Love-Pop-Matters“In his otherwise fine explication and application of the Divine Comedy, Dreher badly misunderstood—or just plain missed—Dante’s view of same-sex love. […]

“The point can’t be made often or forcefully enough: getting Dante straight means getting him gay, as well. When it comes to the sex or gender of the people we love best, Dante doesn’t give a fig. This is something that Dreher and other serious readers of Dante ought to know.” — Guy Raffa, What Rod Dreher Ought to Know about Dante and Same-Sex Love,” Pop Matters

Jack Gilbert, “Dante Dancing”

Excerpt from Jack Gilbert‘s poem, “Dante Dancing”:

I

When he dances of meeting Beatrice that first time,
he is a youth, his body has no real language,
and his heart understands nothing of what has
started. Love like a summer rain after drought,
like the thin cry of a read-tailed hawk, like an angel
sinking its teeth into our throat. He has only
beginner steps to tell of the sheen inside him.
The boy Dante sees her first with the absolute love
possible only when we are ignorant of each other.
Arm across his face, he runs off. Years go by.

Read the entire poem here.

See also Sarah Manguso’s profile of Jack Gilbert on the Poetry Foundation site.

Contributed by Irene Hsu, Stanford University ’17

Jovanotti, “Serenata Rap” (1994)

Serenata RapItalian singer-songwriter Lorenzo “Jovanotti” Cherubini‘s 1994 song “Serenata Rap” contains a famous line from Inferno V: “Amor ch’a nullo amato amar perdona”.

 

To watch the music video, click here.

To view the song’s lyrics, click here.

 

 

Donna Distefano “Elixir of Love” ring and “The Love that Moves the Sun and the Other Stars” ring

 

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“Our 22 karat gold and ruby Elixir of Love ring can hold your tiniest possessions. The griffin was a legendary creature with the body of lion and the head and wings of an eagle. The combination indicates both intelligence and strength. The griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature, renowned for guarding treasures and other priceless possessions. Our griffin is carrying a Maltese cross which is considered a symbol of protection and a badge of honor representing loyalty, generosity, bravery, and helpfulness towards others. In Dante’s Divine Comedy Beatrice takes off into the Heavens to begin Dante’s journey through paradise on a flying Griffin that moves as fast as lightning.”    —Donna Distefano

See also this brief video where she discusses a ring named “The Love that Moves the Sun and the Other Stars,” which was inspired by elements within the final cantos of Paradiso (the celestial rose, Mary), and the number 33.  In Style magazine did a piece on it, too.

donna-distefano-love-stars-ring donna-distefano-stars-ring

What It Means to be Human and “A Working Theory of Love”

working-theory-of-love-scott-hutchins“You could argue that the fundamental question behind all literature is: ‘What does it mean to be human?’ Some people have even argued that storytelling itself is what makes us more than just monkeys with iPhones — that Homer created the modern consciousness, or that Shakespeare (as Harold Bloom has it) invented the human identity. In recent years, however, literature has lost a lot of ground on that score to evolutionary psychology, neurobiology and computer science, and particularly to the efforts of artificial intelligence researchers. So as we wait for the Singularity, when our iPhones will become sentient and Siri will start telling us what we can do for her, many of the savvier fiction writers have begun to come to grips with the fact that the tutelary spirit of the quest for the human may not be Dante or Emily Dickinson or Virginia Woolf, but Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped start the revolution in computing.
Turing may be best known for his version of the Victorian-era Imitation Game, in which a judge receives written responses to his questions from a man and a woman behind a screen and tries to guess from the answers which is the man and which the woman. In Turing’s version, the messages are from a human and a computer; it was his contention that when a judge couldn’t tell the difference any longer, then a machine could be said to think like a human being. The Turing test has since become, at least in the popular imagination, the holy grail of artificial intelligence developers, as well as a conceit in contemporary fiction, and that conceit is at the heart of Scott Hutchins’s clever, funny and very entertaining first novel, ‘A Working Theory of Love.'” [. . .]    –James Hynes, The New York Times, November 21, 2012

A.N. Wilson, “Dante in Love” (2011)

an-wilson-dante-in-love-2011“Dante is considered the greatest of all European poets–yet his most famous work, The Divine Comedy, remains widely unread.
Fueled by a lifetime’s obsession with Dante Alighieri and his work, the distinguished historian A. N. Wilson tells the remarkable story of the poet’s life and passions during the extraordinary political turbulence of thirteenth-century Europe. An impoverished aristocrat born in Florence, then the wealthiest city in Europe, Dante was the most observant and articulate of writers and was as profoundly absorbed in his ambition to be a great poet as he was with the central political and social issues of his time. The emergence of independent nation-states, the establishment of a modern banking system and currency, and the rise of Arabic teachings and Greek philosophy were all momentous events that Dante lived through. Amid this shifting political terrain, Wilson sets Dante in context with his great contemporaries–Giotto, Aquinas, and Pope Boniface VIII–and explains the significance of Beatrice and the part she has played in all our Western attitudes toward love and sex.”    —Powells