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.

Deborah DeNicola, “The Big Enigma” (2021)

“The Big Enigma” is a poem included in the collection The Impossible by Deborah DeNicola, published by Kelsay Books in 2021. Of the inspiration for the poem, DeNicola explains, “In the end of the Inferno, there are souls under the ice. Only their faces are visible and they cry tears that freeze and poke them in the eyes. My poem references this because it is about a heart break that was very hard to get over. I never knew why this person madly loved me for quite a while and then went cold. And more to the point, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get over it for a long, long time, hence, the title ‘The Big Enigma’ and the reference to torment” (DeNicola, in a personal email communication).

The Impossible is available for purchase on Amazon. Our thanks to the author for permission to reprint.

Deborah DeNicola, “Desire with Mountain and Dante” (2010)

Deborah-De-Nicola-Desire-With-Mountain-and-Dante-Full-Text

Deborah DeNicola’s poem “Desire with Mountain and Dante” was published in the collection Original Human in 2010. In a personal email communication, DeNicola recounts, “I am an east-coast person and I was in Seattle and Mt. Rainier was in the distance. I had not been in a relationship for several years and was aware of my own ‘desire without an object of desire,’ as Wallace Stevens puts it. I had been teaching The Inferno so Dante was on my mind.”

Original Human can be purchased at Amazon. Many thanks to the author for permission to reprint the poem.

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.

Two essays by Lorenzo Coveri on Dante reception

Matteo Berton per La Divina Commedia raccontata da Paolo Di Paolo, La Nuova frontiera Junior, 2015.

For Andersen: Il Mensile di Letteratura e Illustrazione per il Mondo dell’Infanzia, Lorenzo Coveri wrote “Dante700: di tutto un pop” March 25, 2021, with many references to Dante’s reception in 20th century Italian culture.

For Mentelocale, he wrote “Dantedì 2021. Cantare Dante, da Petrolini a De André, da Jovanotti a Fedez, tra rock e poesia,” March 25, 2021.

The Guardian’s Opinion: Dante’s Heavenly Wisdom For Our Troubled Times

the-guardian-dantes-wisdom-in-troubled-times-2021“The artistic aspirations of the Divine Comedy were, of course, more profound than a mere settling of scores with people Dante didn’t like. His great work, completed in 1320, helped structure the theological imagination of the Catholic world. But as this year’s anniversary celebrations begin, it is the poet’s reflections on politics that strike a particular chord. He was as preoccupied with the consequences of factionalism and tribalism as we are.

“The explanation for that lies in Dante’s own turbulent biography. Prominent in the ferocious power struggles of medieval Florence, he at various points took up arms, held high office, was double-crossed by Pope Boniface VIII and subsequently died in exile. Writing the Divine Comedy, the author deals ruthlessly with those who engineered and profited from the poet’s banishment. Boniface’s card is marked in Canto XIX of Inferno. Filippo Argenti, a political rival, is placed in the fifth circle of hell, reserved for the wrathful, where he bites lumps out of himself for all eternity.” [. . .]    —The Guardian, January 14, 2021.

 

“The Forum: Dante’s Inferno: The Poetry of Hell”

the-forum-dantes-inferno-poetry-of-hell-2018“Inferno is the 14th century epic that tells the story of Dante Alighieri’s imaginary journey through the underworld. It is the first part of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest poems.

“Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here, is the famous phrase inscribed on the gates of Dante’s Inferno. Here Hell is divided into nine circles, with cruel and unusual punishments afflicting the sinners – who range from the lustful and cowardly in the upper circles to the malicious and fraudulent at the bottom of Hell.

“Joining Rajan Datar to explore the ideas and legacy of Dante’s Inferno is Dr Vittorio Montemaggi, author of Reading Dante’s Commedia as Theology; Claire Honess, Professor of Italian studies at the University of Leeds, and Sangjin Park, Professor of Comparative Literature at Busan University in South Korea, who will be speaking about the increasing popularity of Dante in his country and the role Inferno played in shaping Korea’s national identity.” [. . .]    —BBC, February 27, 2018.

Kat Mustatea, Voidopolis (2020)

@kmustatea on Instagram (January 30, 2021)

Voidopolis is a digital performance about loss and memory that is currently unfolding over 45 posts on my Instagram feed (@kmustatea). Started July 1, 2020, it is a loose retelling of Dante’s Inferno, informed by the grim experience of wandering through NYC during a pandemic. Instead of the poet Virgil, my guide is a caustic hobo named Nikita.”   –Kat Mustatea

Featuring a Dantesque cast of characters ranging from the Virgilian Nikita to a mohawked Minos, a gruff ferryman named Kim and a withdrawn George Perec, Mustatea’s Voidopolis weaves through the pandemic-deserted streets of Manhattan, a posthuman landscape of absence and loss, bearing witness to its vanishings. Voidopolis won the 2020 Arts & Letters “Unclassifiable” Prize for Literature, and received a Literature grant from the Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation.

To read more about both the process of the piece and its influences, including Dante, see the interview with Mustatea featured in Dovetail Magazine (2020).

 

Donna Tartt, The Secret History (1992)

“On page 39, the Inferno is directly mentioned: ‘It’s the meter,’ said Francis, ‘Iambic trimeter. Those really hideous parts of Inferno, for instance, Pier de Medicina with his nose hacked off and talking though a bloody slit in his windpipe–‘ ‘ I can think of worse than that,’ Charles said. ‘So can I. But that passage is lovely and it’s because of the terza rima. The music of it. The trimeter tolls through that speech of Klytemnestra’s like a bell.’

“This was in reference to a quoted piece of the Oresteia in a classics class. The reference to the meter was to connect death and beauty, and ultimately make a statement pertinent to the subject of desire, specifically the desire to live forever. Earlier in the book, the professor teaching the classics class mentioned both Dante and Virgil by name when explaining subjects other than Greek that the students would be studying in his program.”  –Contributor Alex Lee

Contributed by Robert Alex Lee (Florida State University, ’21)

Maurizio Lastrico, “Nel mezzo del casin di nostra vita” (2019)

“Nel suo nuovo spettacolo ‘Nel mezzo del casin di nostra vita,’ Maurizio Lastrico recita i suoi celebri endecasillabi ‘danteschi,’ che mescolano il tono alto e quello basso, che raccontano con ironia di incidenti quotidiani, di una sfortuna che incombe, di un caos che gode nel distruggere i rari momenti di tranquillità della vita. Propone inoltre le sue storie condensate, in cui la sintesi e l’omissione generano un gioco comico di grande impatto.”   —Teatro.it

The show first ran in 2019 and has run continuously through 2020 and the first half of 2021. See teatro.it for more information.