Gathered at the Edge of Light Exhibition – Michael Mazur

“Albert Merola Gallery at 424 Commercial St. [Provincetown, Mass.] is happy to present its first exhibition of 2020 from June 12 to July 1 — paintings by Michael Mazur. The exhibition’s title, Gathered at the Edge of Light, comes from a passage early on in Dante’s Inferno. It is appropriate in many ways, not least of which is that Mazur deeply studied Dante’s masterwork, and had a deep love of all things Italian. One of his major accomplishments was the epic illustration of the Inferno. He made drawings, monoprints, and a complete suite of etchings, illustrating the story of Dante and Virgil’s journey through Hell. This accompanied the translation done by Robert Pinsky, a United States Poet Laureate and dear friend of Michael and Gail Mazur.”    —Wicked Local, June 10, 2020

See our previous post on Mazur’s work here.

Edward Smyth Jones, “Harvard Square” (1910)

“I would like to submit one last example of a writer of color who turns to Dante in a moment of personal crisis. Consider the case of Edward Smythe Jones, who ‘in his over-mastering desire to drink at the Harvard fountain of learning tramped out of the Southland up to Cambridge. Arriving travel-worn, friendless, moneyless, hungry, he was preparing to bivouac on the Harvard campus his first night in the University city, when, being misunderstood, and not believed, he was apprehended as a vagabond and thrown into jail. A poem, however, the poem which tells this story, delivered him. The judge was convinced by it… and set him free to return to the academic shades’ (Kerlin 163-64). The poem called ‘Harvard Square’ ends on this note: ‘Cell No. 40, East Cambridge Jail, Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 26, 1910.’ But the familiar scenario of a black man harassed by the police and thrown in jail for no discernible reason is transformed into a magical encounter with the muse. The divine goddess of inspiration comes to the poet’s aid with a brief lesson in literary history in which she compares his fate to Dante’s — ‘I placed great Dante in exile’ — suggesting that she has now done the same to Jones. Dante’s actual banishment from Florence sheds light on the figurative exile of Jones: the Negro in the white man’s world; the southerner in the North; the backwoodsman in the ‘University city’; the autodidact amidst the hypereducated; and the would-be Dante at the very center of Dante’s American home.”   — Dennis Looney, Freedom Readers: The African-American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2011), pp. 201-202

An excerpt of the poem “Harvard Square” is printed below. You can access the full poem, in Jones’s collection The Sylvan Cabin, on Project Gutenberg, as well as the volume by Kerlin cited above.

“Weep not, my son, thy way is hard,
Thy weary journey long—
But thus I choose my favorite bard
To sing my sweetest song.
I’ll strike the key-note of my art
And guide with tend’rest care,
And breathe a song into thy heart
To honor Harvard Square.

“I called old Homer long ago,
And made him beg his bread
Through seven cities, ye all know,
His body fought for, dead.
Spurn not oppression’s blighting sting,
Nor scorn thy lowly fare;
By them I’ll teach thy soul to sing
The songs of Harvard Square.

“I placed great Dante in exile,
And Byron had his turns;
Then Keats and Shelley smote the while,
And my immortal Burns!
But thee I’ll build a sacred shrine,
A store of all my ware;
By them I’ll teach thy soul to sing
A place in Harvard Square.”   — Edward Smyth Jones, “Harvard Square” (1910)

What Dante did with Loss by Jan Conn

What Dante Did With Loss is Jan Conn’s fourth book of poems. Central to this powerful new collection is a suite of poems charting the explosive emotions surrounding her mother’s suicide. Other poems range from meditations on South American flora and fauna to postmodern encounters with immortality.

“Jan Conn was brought up in Asbestos, Quebec. She now lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and works as a professor of Biomedical Sciences whose research is focused on mosquitoes, their evolution and ecology. She has published seven previous books of poetry.”    —Véhicule Press, 1998.

You can purchase Conn’s book of poetry through Véhicule Press or through Amazon.

New England Winter Hell

new-england-circles-of-winter-hell-2016This cartoon by Beth Wolfensberger Singer summarizes the struggles of New Englanders during the winter season.

“Beth Wolfensberger Singer is a Boston-based artist. Her comics appear on her blog, ambitionectomy.tumblr.com.” — Singer, Boston Globe, December 16, 2016

Dante Gifts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston offers a number of Dante-related gifts in their online store, commemorating the museum’s manuscript editions of the poet’s works. See, for example, the Dante journal and the magnet bookmark set, both based on reproductions of one of the most beautiful manuscripts in the Gardner collection. The gifts also include a Dante ornament, pictured below.

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Clifford Anderson, Score for “The Divine Comedy” exhibit at the Harvard School of Design (2011)

cliff“I created the musical score for four short films about The Divine Comedy, an exhibition at the Harvard Graduate School of Design featuring new works by acclaimed international artists Olafur Eliasson, Ai Weiwei, and Tomas Saraceno.

“Working with filmmaker Rob Meyer (who received an Honorable Mention at the Sundance Film Festival), I composed a musical accompaniment for videos of each of the three installations plus a curatorial overview.

“It was a wonderful experience collaborating with the filmmaker and The Divine Comedy team at the GSD. The exhibition website at thedivinecomedy.org contains the full videos and the official information. Below, I’ve included my personal thoughts on the individual works and my experiences composing for the films.”    –Clifford Anderson, Armor-Plated Dove Productions

Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum’s Café G

cafe-g-isabella-stuart-gardner-museumAn introductory note on the menu of the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum’s Café G:

“Isabella Stuart Gardner’s love for the medieval extended to literature as well as to art, and she was particularly devoted to the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Gardner was a member of the Dante Society and collected several rare copies of the Divine Comedy, including a manuscript of the poem written within a century of the author’s death. She stored these precious books alongside a death mask of the poet in the ‘Dante Case’ in the museum’s Long Gallery. [. . .] We hope you enjoy this special menu, inspired by Inferno. It features fiery hot peppers in a variety of different forms.”    —Café G Menu (click to see full menu)

Contributed by Nancy Vickers

Ron Jenkins, “To See the Stars” (2012)

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“Lynda Gardner, Saundra Duncan, and Deborah Ranger will give a reading of a new play at a Harvard University conference next week. A different kind of alma mater qualifies them for this appearance: York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn., a high-security state facility for female offenders.

“While behind bars at York, all three joined theater workshops with Wesleyan University professor Ron Jenkins and students from his Activism and Outreach Through Theater course. They got to know Shakespeare and Dante, and it changed their lives.

“‘I spent my first six months [in York] trying to figure out ways to kill myself, and the next four and a half years trying to see how much more I can live,’ says Gardner.

“Inspired by these three and other inmates he worked with, Jenkins wrote a play about their existence behind bars, ‘To See the Stars,’ which mingles inmates’ stories with bits of Dante’s epic 14th-century poem, Divine Comedy.

“The women have their own perspective on ‘Divine Comedy.’ They tend to say that they are still working on its third part (Paradise) but that they are well versed in the first two (Hell and Purgatory).

“‘I’ve been in a lot of the circles of hell,’ says Gardner, 63. ‘It really isn’t about hell; it is about hope. Climbing out of those circles.’

“The trio will perform ‘To See the Stars’ on March 3 in a lightly staged reading at a Harvard conference on race, class, and education called Disrupting the Discourse: Discussing the ‘Undiscussable,’ sponsored by the Graduate School of Education’s Alumni of Color. The Harvard performance is open to conference participants only, but the public can attend a free performance at Brown University’s Lyman Hall in Providence on March 2 at 3:30 p.m.”  — Joel Brown, Boston.com, February 12, 2012 (retrieved on July 9, 2012)

See also Rachel Apfel’s piece in the Harvard Ed. Magazine.

Dante Restaurant, Boston

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Dante Restaurant, Boston, MA

Contributed by Krista Gladman (Bowdoin, ’11)

“O.N.C.E. in Hell: Dante’s Inferno in Ten Courses”

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“After a smashing success in December of 2009, O.N.C.E. in Hell returns to OBERON for one night only and features ten courses of locally sourced food and a theatrical journey through the rings of hell of Dante’s Inferno. Food is by Cuisine en Locale, who offer O.N.C.E (One Night Culinary Events) throughout the city, highlighting seasonally appropriate local food. Allegra Libonati, Artistic Associate at the A.R.T, and Steven Mitchell Wright, Movement Director for Cabaret, create the performance and the cast will be filled with familiar faces from the A.R.T. and OBERON.
Virgil, your Maitre D’, will lead you through the nine circles of hell in search of the love of your life, Beatrice, who has summoned you from beyond the grave. Meet furies, a three-headed dog and a cast of wild characters as they serve you not only your meal but also a night of devilish entertainment.”    —American Repertory Theater (retrieved on November 21, 2010)

“…a 10-course, three-hour meal designed to reflect the famous Italian poet’s uniquely described ‘circles of hell.’ (In its first, sell-out staging last year, plates included ‘Beelzebub’s Burgers’ and ‘Tofu Wellington’ – the tofu being used in place of beef for the fraud circle…”    –Scott Kearnan, Stuff Boston, October 4, 2010

Contributed by Patrick Molloy