Final line of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed

“In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, ‘like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, ‘like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,’ says Lewis.

[. . .]

The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.

‘Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,’ ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.”    –Zach Kincaid, cslewis.com, February 29, 2012

Contributed by Daniel Christian

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.

Dante Micheaux wins 2019 Four Quartets Poetry Prize for Circus

“Congratulations to Dante Micheaux who has been awarded the prestigious Four Quartets Poetry Prize for his 2018 collection, Circus.

[. . .]

“Circus was selected as the winner by judges Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Rosanna Warren, whose citation reads: ‘How right that this poet’s first name should be Dante. For his Circus is a Comedy: a savage comedy, lacerating dialects, fingering wounds, looking for loves right and wrong in the crevices of history and of humiliated bodes. And yet, and yet. His language exults, triumphs, and freely rummages in the treasuries of the Bible, Baudelaire, Whitman, Eliot, Baraka, and Mahalia Jackson, taking what it needs, making it his sovereign own, a wrested blessing. Congratulations, Dante Micheaux, on your astonishing Circus.'”   — Dan Sheehan, Lit Hub (May 1, 2019)

Ocean Vuong, “Seventh Circle of Earth” (2016)

“I wrote ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ [from Vuong’s 2016 collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds] shortly after hearing the news of two gay men being murdered by immolation in Dallas, TX. I originally wrote the poem in tercets, echoing Dante’s terza rima format. In the Inferno, the stanzas work as a network of rooms the speaker moves through as he descends through the circles of hell. In ‘Seventh Circle of Earth,’ however, this grouping felt off, even fraudulent, to me. A persona poem at its core, it takes on the voice of one of the men speaking to his partner. And in the midst of that fraught position, a poem in tercets, or, in other words, a ‘traditional’ poem, felt like a diluted, forced recasting of a horrific event. I ultimately abandoned the poem.

“It was not until three years later, while reading a critical work on violence and scholarship, did I see, more clearly, the footnotes on the bottom of the page. I found myself slipping right to the notes as I progressed, reading them first. They possessed, in that reading, an urgency that began to stitch itself into a fabric of broken utterances fused together by parataxis. It was, in a way, found poetry. That gave me the idea to re-work ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ into a piece written entirely in the footnote. This time, the vast and utter emptiness one confronts on the page felt more faithful to the violent erasure of the two murdered men. It felt right to begin the poem with its own vanishing.” [. . .]  — Ocean Vuong on “Seventh Circle of Earth” for Poetry School

Read the rest of Vuong’s comments and the poem at poetryschool.com.

Contributed by Su Ertekin-Taner (The Bolles School ’22)

“Bang’s Purgatorio

“Heading over waters getting better all the time
My mind’s little skiff now lifts its sails,
Letting go the oh-so-bitter sea behind it.

The next realm, the second I’ll sing,
Is here where the human spirit get purified
And made fir for the stairway to heaven.

Here’s where the kiss of life restores the reign
Of poetry—O true-blue Muses, I’m yours—
And where Calliope jumps up just long enough

To sing backup with the same bold notes
That knocked the poor magpie girls into knowing
Their audacity would never be pardoned.”    –Excerpt from Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Purgatorio, The New Yorker, December 23, 2019

Illustration by Berke Yazicioglu.
See more about Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Purgatorio here.

“I Have Wasted My Life,” Justin Phillip Reed (2020)

The poem “I Have Wasted My Life” by American poet and essayist Justin Phillip Reed invents the neologism “alighieried”: “No, / I alighieried down this sunken navel / to also cape for waste.” Read the full poem on Poetry Daily here (featured on January 23, 2020).

Contributed by Silvia Valisa (Florida State University)

“The 34 Greatest Poets of All Time”

Dante Alighieri

Birthplace: Florence, Italy

Famous poem: Divine Comedy

Famous quote: ‘Consider your origin; you were not born to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.’

[. . .]

Poetry — one of the most important and time-honored forms of literature in the world — brought us greats like William Shakespeare and W.B. Yeats to ancient poets like Homer and Dante Alighieri to American treasures like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.”    –Mo Elinzano, Deseret News, March 20, 2015

Gloria Naylor, Linden Hills (1985)

gloria-naylor-linden-hills-1985“Like Amiri Baraka in The Systems of Dante’s Hell (1965), Miss Naylor has adapted Dante’s Inferno to her own fictional purposes – in this instance a tale of lost black souls trapped in the American dream. The setting is Linden Hills, an upper-middle-class black community built on a huge plot of land owned by the mysterious Nedeed family (the locale is not specified). Purchased by Luther Nedeed in 1820 – after he had sold his octoroon wife and six children into slavery and moved from Tupelo, Miss., we are told – the land has remained under the proprietorship of the Nedeeds for more than 150 years. Luther (read Lucifer), as all the males in the Nedeed family are named, opened a funeral parlor, then developed the land and leased sections to black families. His sons and grandsons, all of whom are physical copies of the original landowner, furthered his plan – to establish a showcase black community. That community, as the original Luther says, would not only be an ‘ebony jewel’ representing black achievement, but also ‘a beautiful, black wad of spit right in the white eye of America.'”   –Mel Watkins, “The Circular Driveways of Hell,” New York Times (March 3, 1985)

“Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills follows two young black male poets on their downward journey through a prosperous community built for blacks who aspire to live out a white-patented dream of social advancement. Naylor’s appropriation of Dante’s Inferno as master narrative for this landscape of private torments (a white model for black society) replicates the choice made by Linden Hills itself. The ironies of this are rich and difficult to control: but the attention paid to the sufferings of women in this arrangement adds something quite new to the English-language Dante tradition.”    –David Wallace, “Dante in English,” in Rachel Jacoff’s The Cambridge Companion to Dante, 2007