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)

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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.

“Dante’s Inferno: Can Pettis Reignite His 49ers Career?”

“For some, failure fuels the fire. 49ers WR Dante Pettis has been accustomed to failure as of late. Dennis Waitley once said, ‘Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.’

“49ers WR Dante Pettis has become accustomed to failure as of late. Though Pettis’ team was incredibly successful in 2019, Pettis’ contributions towards that success were mostly unnoticeable. Once a highly touted 2nd-round draft pick, Pettis found himself slotted to be a starting WR for the 49ers heading into the 2019 season.”   –Gilbert Brink, 49ers Webzone, 2020

Read the full article here.

“America in the Eighth Circle”

crisis-magazine-america-in-the-eighth-circle-2020“Such a world, naturally, produced every manner of sin imaginable, and all these sins are carefully chronicled in Dante’s descent into the Inferno. The nine circles of the infernal city are, as Dorothy Sayers reminds us, Dante’s picture of human society in decay; the further Dante and Virgil descend, the more radically corrupt and degraded the society becomes. The pilgrims pass relatively quickly through first seven circles of hell. All the sins of appetite and violence are contained in the first half of the cantica. Then the travelers reach the Great Barrier, and here the poem slows down. Dante and Virgil plunge into the abyss of the eighth circle, which houses the fraudulent. Alas, the various sins punished here read like a cross-section of our ruling classes in Washington, New York, and Hollywood: we meet pimps and seducers, flatterers, hypocrites, and thieves, bribe-taking officials, false counsellors, and sowers of discord. They come at long last to the tenth and final ditch of the eighth circle. Here we find the liars—those who perpetrate the purest form of fraud, the one that unites all the others. Their stench is overwhelming.” [. . .]    –Ben Reinhard, Crisis Magazine, September 21, 2020.

“Keeping Cool”

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“The thing is … I love air conditioning. And I hate, haaaaaaaaaaaate being hot. ‘Oh, thank you Jesus,’ were my first words upon entering our 68-degree oasis with a carload of groceries on a 90-plus degree, muggy summer day where the outside feels like a shvitz or the third ring of Dante’s Inferno. Central air conditioning is grace for me. But what if my blessing is a curse for someone else? Like, say, the rest of the planet? Air conditioning hurts the environment, quaffs energy, and hastens global warming. But is my air conditioner evil? What would Jesus do? For one thing, Jesus recognized the Jewish kosher laws. A fairly new movement in Judaism today called eco-kashrut (aka ‘eco-kosher’) expands on the ancient dietary laws to look at what’s kosher in terms of ethical living, fair trade, the ecological concerns involved in food production, consumerism, and lifestyle, including whether to air condition or not.” [. . .]    –Cathleen Falsani, SOJOURNER, October, 2009.

“Into the Dark Woods”

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“This year I was drawn to Mark’s ‘certain young man’—the one who flees naked from the violence in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives (14:51-52), leaving behind his linen cloth. Scholars vehemently disagree about who this young man was. Many deduce that it’s the writer of Mark’s gospel inserting himself into the story. Others say he is reminiscent of King David fleeing from Absalom on the the Mount of Olives. Or that he foreshadows the ‘young man’ in a white robe who will meet the women at Jesus’ tomb. Whoever he was, in the midst of an encounter with violence, this “certain young man” lost what thin protection he had and fled into the night, into the selva oscura, as Dante calls it, those ‘dark woods.’ Toward what, we do not know. As the human soul matures, we are confronted with moments that force us to let go of yet another thin veil of self-delusion. The “right road,” the moral high ground, sinks into a thicket of gray.” [. . .]    –Rose Marie Berger, SOJOURNERS, May, 2012.

Louis Armstrong

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“Jazz critic Gary Giddins chortles as he recounts the tale, pointing out that if these American Brahmins had simply deigned to take a train south from Boston to New York City, and stepped into the Roseland Ballroom on a Thursday night, they would have experienced the American Bach, Dante, and Shakespeare all rolled into one: Louis Armstrong.

“Born to a 15-year-old who sometimes worked as a prostitute, raised in a New Orleans neighborhood so violent it was known as ‘the Battlefield,’ sent to a juvenile detention facility at 11 for firing a gun into the street—his early years would surely put him on the pipeline to prison today.

“Had that occurred, the distinctly American music that Louis Armstrong created might never have happened. The American songbook, as we know it today, simply would not exist.” [. . .]    –Eboo Patel, SOJOURNERS, July, 2016.

Carlos Malavé, “American Individualism is Destroying the Soul”

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“I am very mindful of Dante’s words: ‘The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.’

“Coming together from all streams of American Christianity to speak in opposition to cuts on the safety-net programs is no minor achievement. We have a widespread consensus on the priority of providing essential life saving support to poor people in our country. We also agree in that the ultimate goal is to create a just society in which everyone live an abundant life that includes meaningful work with fair salaries, affordable health care and education, and time for leisure and recreation.

“In order to achieve this, our political leaders must renounce rigid political ideologies. These ideologies are destroying the fabric of our nation and the hopes of our people. As disciples of Jesus, we will continually call our elected leaders to reject all allegiances to groups or corporations that do not advocate and serve the majority of Americans.” [. . .]    –Carlos Malavé, SOJOURNERS, June 28, 2017.

In his essay, Malavé uses a citation that is frequently misattributed to Dante, but much in keeping with his contempt for neutrality. See other posts filed under the tag “Hottest Places.”

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.