W.H. Auden, “Memorial for the City”

Excerpt from Part II of W.H. Auden‘s “Memorial for the City“:

“The deserts were dangerous, the waters rough, their clothes
Absurd but, changing their Beatrices often,
Sleeping little, they pushed, raised the flag of the Word
Upon lawless spots denied or forgotten
By the fear or the pride of the Glittering City;
Guided by hated parental shades,
They invaded and harrowed the hell of her natural self.”

Auden’s poetry is replete with Dante references. See also “In Memory of Sigmund Freud” and, most famously, “New Year Letter,” discussed here and here. Auden’s collected works can be read in the edition by Edward Mendelson.

Contributed by Quinn Cashion (University of Kansas 2019)

Louise Glück, “From a Journal” (2001)

The-Seven-Ages-Louise-Gluck“From a Journal”

I had a lover once,
I had a lover twice,
easily three times I loved.
And in between
my heart reconstructed itself perfectly
like a worm.
And my dreams also reconstructed themselves.

After a time, I realized I was living
a completely idiotic life.
Idiotic, wasted—
And sometime later, you and I
began to correspond, inventing
an entirely new form.

Deep intimacy over great distance!
Keats to Fanny Brawne, Dante to Beatrice—

[. . .]

“From a Journal” is from Louise Glück’s 2001 collection The Seven Ages. It was published by HarperCollins.

Contributed by Jessica Beasley (Florida State University, 2018)

“Vita Nova,” Louise Glück (1999)

louise-gluck-vita-nova-1999From Louise Glück’s collection Vita Nova, published in 1999:

“You saved me, you should remember me.

The spring of the year; young men buying tickets for the ferry boats.
Laughter, because the air is full of apple blossoms.

When I woke up, I realized I was capable of the same feeling.

I remember sounds like that from my childhood,
laughter for no cause, simply because the world is beautiful,
something like that.

Lugano. Tables under the apple trees.
Deckhands raising and lowering the colored flags.
And by the lake’s edge, a young man throws his hat into the water;
perhaps his sweetheart has accepted him.

Crucial
sounds or gestures like
a track laid down before the larger themes

and then unused, buried.

Islands in the distance. My mother
holding out a plate of little cakes—

as far as I remember, changed
in no detail, the moment
vivid, intact, having never been
exposed to light, so that I woke elated, at my age
hungry for life, utterly confident—

By the tables, patches of new grass, the pale green
pierced into the dark existing ground.

Surely spring has been returned to me, this time
not as a lover but a messenger of death, yet
it is still spring, it is still meant tenderly.”

See “Vita Nova” and other poems by Glück at The Poetry Foundation.

The Returno to the Inferno by Luigi Enrico Pietra D’Oro (2018)

The Returno to the Inferno by Luigi Enrico Pietra D’Oro (Lewis Goldstein) is a book-length epic poem that follows up on Dante’s Inferno with an original, modern discourse (written entirely in rhymed poetry, the same structure Dante used for his original) about what hell is really about in current times—and it’s closer to home than you think. Luigi is now older and less tolerant of the misery and loneliness he sees in our modern, crowded world. And who would be better to help Luigi see the world for what it really is than Robin Williams (or what’s left of him after his own private hell…). The journey of hellish comedy continues with cameo appearances of other laughter-inducing luminaries and even a popular talk-show host whose guest is no other than Satan—who’s not too shabby as a guest, actually. There are great historical figures, as well, who are fittingly housed with the criminally insane, and just rewards for corporate leaders, religious clergy (topped by a lively Pope, for example, who awaits Luigi in Purgatory), politicians and the good old NRA. The journey is portrayed on a large canvas with vivid scenes and clever dialogue, and for a willing reader who cares to suspend disbelief and accept the surreal as real, there’s a richness here that’s unique and memorable. In summary, as with his previous books, the author manages to simultaneously induce bursts of uncontrollable laughter and bouts of unconventional self-reflection. An exceptional book!” — The Editorial Board of the Columbia Review of Books & Film

The book is available on Amazon.

Contributed by Lewis Goldstein

Dante’s Inferno as written by Dr. Seuss (Reddit Writing Prompt)

In March 2018 Reddit user The2500 posted the following Writing Prompt: “Dante’s Inferno as written by Dr. Seuss.” Here is a selection from the first entry:

And gave poor Dante a very big fright

And scared, Dante was, in the woods called sin

Dr-Seuss-Cat-in-the-hat-Dantes-Inferno-Reddit-Writing-PromptsFret not, Virgil said, and gave him his hand.

‘For together we must travel throughout the land!

Through Hell and Eden, Purgatory and all!’

Dante gasped, ‘But why upon me must this fate befall?

Oh me, oh my, I think I might cry!’

Virgil smiled and shook his head.

‘O ’tis Beatrice’s call,’ he plainly said.

‘Beatrice?’

‘Oh yes! She wishes your spirit to be put to the test.’

Dante jumped, he leaped, he punched the sky.

‘Joy upon joys! I’ve been graced. I’m so happy, I think I might die!’

Virgil grabbed him, ‘Then let us make haste, this duo of you and I.’

And so they walked, en route to limbo.

They braced and prepared to go low. Low upon lows, through Hell and their foes.”

— “Dante’s Inferno As Written By Dr. Seuss” on Reddit.com

Contributed by Jessica Beasley (Florida State University ’18)

Kim Addonizio, “Blues for Dante Alighieri”

Kim Addonizio‘s blues poem first appeared in the December 2002 issue of Poetry magazine, and was later included in the collection What is This Thing Called Love (2004):Kim-Addonizio-Blues-for-Dante-Alighieri

Listen to Addonizio read and discuss the poem here.

Contributed by Jessica Beasley (Florida State University ’18)

Andrew Frisardi, “Pilgrim” (2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilgrim

He started out a favored son of Florence,
Most bellicose among Love’s devotees.
An arrow early barbed his boyish ease.
The mythic monsters of his own abhorrence
And love swallowed him, spat him out. Adherents
Of papal power and the Fleur-de-lis
Seized all except a sieve of memories
He’d use to strain existence from appearance.

Exile was his stability: the salt
Of others’ bread, his beggar’s role, the cares
He cauterized and bandaged phrase by phrase.
In lieu of pilgrimage he spent his days
Ascending and descending others’ stairs,
As if in restless search of grace in fault.

 Alabama Literary Review (Winter 2018)

William Matthews, “Grief”

Ohio-born poet William Matthews’s “Grief” (from the 1995 collection Time and Money) originally appeared in the November 29, 1993, issue of the New Yorker, with the title “Poem Ending With a Line From Dante” (accessible in the New Yorker archives, sign in required). In both versions, the poem ends with a translation of Inferno 24.151. Below is the version from Time and Money, with an image of the original publication in the New Yorker.

“Grief”

William-Matthews-Poem-Ending-With-A-Line-From-Dante-New-Yorker

E detto l’ho perché doler ti debbia!
Inferno, xxiv, 151

Snow coming in parallel to the street,
a cab spinning its tires (a rising whine
like a domestic argument, and then
the words get said that never get forgot),

slush and backed-up runoff waters at each
corner, clogged buses smelling of wet wool . . .
The acrid anger of the homeless swells
like wet rice. This slop is where I live, bitch,

a sogged panhandler shrieks to whom it may
concern. But none of us slows down for scorn;
there’s someone’s misery in all we earn.
But like a bur in a dog’s coat his rage

has borrowed legs. We bring it home. It lives
like kin among the angers of the house,
and leaves the same sharp zinc taste in the mouth:
And I have told you this to make you grieve.

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.

“La sedia di Dante” [Dante’s Chair]

 “La sedia di Dante”: A rap by high school students about Dante, poetry, life.  Directed by Ian Giovanni Soscara, Forlì, Italy, 2017.

Contributed by Francesco Ciabbatoni and Anna Cafaro