Mary Jo Bang’s New Translation of Dante’s Inferno

mary-jo-bangs-new-translation-of-dantes-inferno     mary-jo-bangs-new-translation-of-dantes-inferno

“. . .Bang worked on the project for six years after being inspired by Caroline Bergvall’s poem, Via (48 Dante Variations), which is composed entirely of those first three lines from 47 different translations.
‘How might the lines sound if I were to put them into colloquial English? What if I were to go further and add elements of my own poetic style?’ Bang writes in her note on the translation. ‘Would it sound like a cover song, the words of the original unmistakably there, but made unfamiliar by the fact that someone else’s voice has its own characteristics? Could it be, like covers sometimes are, a tribute that pays homage to the original, while at the same time radically departing from it?'” [. . .]    –Mike Melia, PBS Newshour, November 2, 2012

Contributed by Julie Heyman

Clive James to Translate Dante’s Commedia

clive-james-commedia-translation“‘In a way, I’ve spent my whole life training for it,’ Mr. James said. He first fell in love with ‘The Divine Comedy’ in Florence in the 1960s, when the scholar Prue Shaw, who was then his girlfriend and is now his wife, read romantic passages aloud to him from Canto 5 of the ‘Inferno’ in the original Italian. . . ‘Dante is very compact, and there’s so much going on in a tight space that you’d swear you were reading a modern poet,’ Mr. James continued. ‘The temptation for any Italian poet is just outright lyricism, because the language is so beautiful. But Dante is never beautiful for its own sake, and every sentence, every line, is loaded with incident and meaning and wordplay.'” [. . .]    –Sarah Lyall, The New York Times, October 7, 2012

See also:
– “Clive James: By the Book,” The New York Times, April 11, 2013
– “This Could Be ‘Heaven,’ or This Could Be ‘Hell'” by Joseph Luzzi, The New York Times, April 19, 2013
– “The Divine Comedy” by Allen Barra, Truth Dig, April 26, 2013

Contributed by Pamela Montanaro

Roberta Delaney, “Translations and Transformations”

roberta-delaney-translations-and-transformations
“‘Translations and Transformations’ is a journey with two destinations: Dante’s and mine. Dante’s Divine Comedy was written at in the early 14th century, in Italian, and in verse. He is the narrator and main character. Since 1812 when it was first translated into English, this long poem of 100 Cantos has been translated continuously just in English. Dante’s journey takes us down into the many levels of the Inferno (the Pope is next to Satan); we leave the Inferno climb a mountain out of Purgatory leading to Paradise. Dante has completed his journey and returns to earth, content.
I have also completed my journey. The Divine Comedy is still being translated because within the poem’s tight geometric structure, Dante has exposed the flaws of human nature. He was a Catholic, but highly critical of the clergy. In the wider sense, pride is still with us as is greed. This is a universal work of art that resonates in today’s living language and, fortunately via translators, for future generations.
There are twenty-six etchings in ‘Translations and Transformations’, it is bound and all the text is letterpress printed. The Italian text is printed in light gray, the English translations in black. Open, the size is 13″high X 37”wide.”    —Roberta Delaney

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

Electronic Arts Re-Releasing Longfellow’s Translation

dantes-inferno-longfellow-edition“There’s a new edition of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ that’s recently begun appearing in bookstores. Same words. Different cover. It’s got a big picture of a muscular fellow in a spiky crown and an overline that says, ‘The literary classic that inspired the epic video game.'” [. . .]    –Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times, January 29, 2010

Elisabeth Tonnard, “In This Dark Wood” (2008)

elisabeth-tonnard-in-this-dark-wood-2008
“This book is a modern gothic. It pairs images of people walking alone in nighttime city streets with 90 different English translations I collected of the first lines of Dante’s Inferno. The images, showing a crowd of solitary figures, are selected from the same archive as used for Two of Us (the extraordinary Joseph Selle collection at the Visual Studies Workshop which contains over a million negatives from a company of street photographers working in San Francisco from the 40’s to the 70’s).
The book is set up in a repetitious way, to stress a sense of similarity, endlessness and interchangeability. The images are re-expressions of each other, and so are the texts.”    —Elisabeth Tonnard

Contributed by Guy Raffa (University of Texas – Austin)

Remembering Michael Mazur’s Illustrations of the Inferno

michael-mazur-dies-at-73   the-simoniacs-etching-michael-mazur
“Michael Mazur, a relentlessly inventive printmaker, painter and sculptor whose work encompassed social documentation, narrative and landscape while moving back and forth between figuration and abstraction, died on Aug. 18 in Cambridge, Mass. He was 73 and lived in Cambridge and Provincetown, Mass. . .
While attending Amherst College he studied with the printmaker and sculptor Leonard Baskin, who was teaching at Smith College. After taking a year off to study in Italy, where his lifelong fascination with Dante began, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1957 and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art from the Yale School of Art and Architecture. . .
After seeing an exhibition of Degas monotypes at the Fogg Museum in 1968, he began exploring that medium, most notably in the monumental Wakeby landscapes of 1983, depicting Wakeby Lake on Cape Cod, and in a series of illustrations for Robert Pinsky’s translation of Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ published in 1994.” [. . .]    –William Grimes, The New York Times, August 29, 2009

Contributed by Richard Lindemann (2006)

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)

“Paradise Lost: Why Doesn’t Anyone Read Dante’s Paradise”

robert-p-baird-paradise-lost-why-doesnt-anyone-read-dantes-paradise“Dante’s Paradiso is the least read and least admired part of his Divine Comedy. The Inferno‘s nine circles of extravagant tortures have long captured the popular imagination, while Purgatorio is often the connoisseur’s choice. But as Robert Hollander writes in his new edition of the Paradiso, ‘One finds few who will claim (or admit) that it is their favorite cantica.’ (A cantica, or canticle, is one of the three titled parts of the poem.) The time is ripe to reconsider Paradiso‘s neglect, however, since three major new translations of the poem we know as the Divine Comedy are coming to completion. (Dante simply called it his Comedy; in what was perhaps the founding instance of publishing hype, divine was added by a Venetian printer in 1555.) Hollander’s edition, produced with his wife, Jean, was published this summer, and two more are due out next year: one by Robin Kirkpatrick and the other—the one I’m holding out for—by Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez.” [. . .]    –Robert P. Baird, Slate, December 24, 2007

Sandow Birk’s Illustrations of the “Divine Comedy”

sandow-birk-illustrations-to-the-divine-comedy

“A five year project which involved adapting the text of the entire “Divine Comedy” into contemporary slang and setting the action in contemporary urban America. The project resulted in three, limited edition books, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Each book contained more than 60 original lithographs and was published by Trillium Press in San Francisco.”    —Sandow Birk

See also: Sandow Birk’s film “Dante’s Inferno” (2007)