“Three Lost Cantos From Dante’s Inferno”

three-lost-cantos-from-dantes-inferno “XXXV: Cell-Phone Users
The users of cell-phones in quiet places
Have merited scorn from all classes and races.
They talk to their pals with cocky assurance
While you bury your head in your book with endurance.
The gestures they make are of course unavailing
It looks like unseen taxis that they are hailing.
Their punishment, as each millennium passes,
Is to be drowned out forever by the braying of asses.”

“XXXVI: ‘Reply-to-All’-ers
We came to the furthest reach of hell-
A place that email users know well.
The woman or man whose unmitigated gall
Causes him or her to hit “Reply all”.
I don’t mean to work myself into a snith
But they ought to know better-it clogs server bandwidth.
For these folks a punishment fit for their crimes-
They’re surrounded and hounded by fast-talking mimes.”

“XXXVII: Credit Card Coffee Buyers
The lousy cup is called a “tall”–
the cost of it is rather small.
Those who chose to charge the price
In this ring are treated not-so-nice.
If plastic was the tender you used to pay
While the time of those in line wasted away
You will for eternity be burnt like toast
With free trade coffee, decaf dark roast.”    –Con Chapman

Available to read on Fictionaut.com (posted July, 2010).

Contributed by Patrick Molloy

Caroline Bergvall, Dante Variations

caroline-bergvall-dante-variations“As of May, 2000 the British Library housed 48 different translations of Dante’s Inferno into English.

“Poet and sound artist Caroline Bergvall gathers the opening lines of each translation in her sound piece VIA (48 Dante Variations).

“Bergvall reads the opening of each translation then names the translator and the date of the publication. The result is powerful. The overarching monotony sprinkled with the subtlety of each translation and the hypnotic drone of Bergvall’s voice leaves the listener transfixed as they await the next rendering of Dante’s lines. The piece conveys the inherent complexity of the art of translation and illuminates the uniqueness of each translator’s work.”    –Michael Lieberman, Book Patrol, December 15, 2009

Read Bergvall’s piece at poetryfoundation.org.

Listen to the performance

      here
.

Contributed by Patrick Molloy

Seth Steinzor, “To Join the Lost” (2010)

seth-steinzor-to-join-the-lost“Dante’s Divine Comedy — that poetic tour of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise written in the 14th century — never seems to get old. The latest proof is the new video game by Electronic Arts, Dante’s Inferno. As in the poem, the game’s Dante character and his guide, Virgil, travel down through the nine circles of Hell, hearing sinners’ stories and witnessing their horrifying punishments. But — this being a video game — Dante is armored like a Greek warrior and can choose to absolve the shades or slash them to bits.
If that raises your literary hackles, you’ll appreciate another, rather different, Dante-inspired release: the book-length poem To Join the Lost, by Seth Steinzor of South Burlington. This achingly personal, contemporary version of the Inferno is both truer to its prototype and more daring.
Preserving Dante’s structure of 34 cantos, Steinzor’s unrhymed but rhythmical poem is spoken by a poet named Seth. (It takes some guts to invite comparisons between the Tuscan bard’s poetic voice and one’s own.) Like Dante’s character-self, the middle-aged Seth finds himself lost in a murky, obstructed landscape at the poem’s opening. All is despair until out of the gloom steps Dante — the Florentine poet, that is — who, 700 years after penning his own tour of Hell, has become a guide.” [. . .]    –Amy Lilly, Seven Days, May 19, 2010

“Jean-Claude Trichet: Like the Single Currency, Our European Culture Binds Us Together”

jean-claude-trichet-like-the-single-currency-our-european-culture-binds-us
“I am convinced that economic and cultural affairs, that money and literature and poetry, are much more closely linked than many people believe. We should recall that writing came into being in Sumer, the cradle of civilisation between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, 6,000 years ago. Sumer’s administrators made a record of everyday items, of quantities, of transactions, on clay tablets. By recording these economic activities, these ‘proto-accountants’ created the first documents in human history and paved the way for all of the world’s written literature.
There is a relationship between poetry and money which has always struck me. Poems, like gold coins, are meant to last, to keep their integrity, sustained by their rhythm, rhymes and metaphors. In that sense, they are like money – they are a ‘store of value’ over the long term. They are both aspiring to inalterability, whilst they are both destined to circulate from hand to hand and from mind to mind.
Both culture and money, poems and coins belong to the people. Our currency belongs to the people of Europe in a very deep sense: it is their own confidence in their currency which makes it a successful medium of exchange, unit of account and store of value. Our culture is the wealth of literature and art that the confidence of the people has decided to preserve over time.
European-ness means being unable to understand my national literature and poetry without understanding Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare. And as the Spanish philosopher Jose’ Ortega y Gasset wrote in his The Revolt of the Masses in 1930: ‘If we were to take an inventory of our mental stock today – opinions, standards, desires, assumptions – we should discover that the greater part of it does not come to the Frenchman from France, nor to the Spaniard from Spain, but from the common European stock.’
It is no coincidence that the European Central Bank chose European architectural styles to illustrate our banknotes. These architectural styles were born in very different areas of Europe. They provide another powerful illustration of this unique concept of unity within diversity, which is the central trait of our continent.
European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet was speaking at the Centre for Financial Studies in Frankfurt earlier this week.”    —The Independent, March 19, 2009

Randall Graham and Alex Gross, “Da Vino Commedia”

randall-graham-and-alex-gross-da-vino-commedia

See the full text of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s “The Vinferno.”

Also cited at Mae’s Cafe and Bakery in Bath, Maine by Anna Schember (Bowdoin, ’12).

James Merrill, “Divine Comedies” (1976)

james-merrill-divine-comedies-1976Merrill’s collection of poems includes one, “The Book of Ephraim,” which is an account of “conversations held, via the Ouija board, with dead friends and spirits in ‘another world.'”    –Stephen Spender, The New York Review of Books, December 21, 1978

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Mezzo Cammin” (1842) and “Divina Commedia” (1867)

henry-wadsworth-longfellow-mezzo-cammin-1842-and-divina-commedia-1867The title, “Mezzo Cammin,” takes its name from the first line of the Inferno. Longfellow, the first American to translate Dante’s Commedia into English, “was 35 when he wrote this poem, halfway through the scriptural lifespan of 70 years.”
Additionally, Longfellow wrote six sonnets, entitled “Divina Commedia,” which were composed during the grief-filled aftermath of his second wife’s death.
“The six sonnets. . .were written during the progress of Mr. Longfellow’s work in translating the Commedia, and were published as poetical fly-leaves to the three parts. The first was written just after he had put the first two cantos of the Inferno into the hands of the printer. This, with the second, prefaced the Inferno. The third and fourth introduced the Purgatorio, and the fifth and sixth the Paradiso.”    —Representative Poetry Online (retrieved on July 7, 2009)

John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura, “The Young Inferno” (2008)

john-agard-and-satoshi-kitamura-the-young-inferno-2008“A funky and powerful book. Agard takes Dante’s famous poem about a visit to Hell and reworks it to appeal to today’s youngsters, mingling 21st Century street cred with ancient mythology. Kitamura’s stylized black and white illustrations draw the reader effortlessly in.” [. . .]    —Amazon

Contributed by Virginia Jewiss (Humanities Program, Yale University)

“On Poetry: The Great(ness) Game”

on-poetry-the-greatness-game

“STILL, however blurry ‘greatness’ may be, it’s clear that segments of the poetry world have been fretting over its potential loss since at least 1983. That’s the year in which an essay by Donald Hall, the United States poet laureate from 2006 to 2007, appeared in The Kenyon Review bearing the title ‘Poetry and Ambition.’ Hall got right to the point: ‘It seems to me that contemporary American poetry is afflicted by modesty of ambition–a modesty, alas, genuine. . . if sometimes accompanied by vast pretense.’ What poets should be trying to do, according to Hall, was ‘to make words that live forever’ and ‘to be as good as Dante.’ They probably would fail, of course, but even so, ‘the only way we are likely to be any good is to try to be as great as the best.’ Pretty strong stuff–and one wonders how many plays Shakespeare would have managed to write had he subjected every line to the merciless scrutiny Hall recommends.” [. . .]    –David Orr, The New York Times, February 19, 2009

Richard Wilbur, “Terza Rima”

richard-wilbur-terza-rima-the-new-yorker-2008

Found at The New Yorker.

Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)