Posts Tagged ‘Dante’

A Modest Jeremiad – America, Vermont and Purgatory

August 22nd, 2010

Having re-visited Dante’s Inferno in To Join the Lost, I am now engaged in re-visiting his Purgatorio.  Purgatory was the mountain Dante climbed after leaving hell, on which the souls of those whose sins had not disqualified them for salvation were purged and cured and made ready for heaven.  In my vision, the mountain has been flattened and replaced with a Rust Belt-ish city full of ambiguities, dreariness, and occasional flashes of ruinous beauty.  Unlike those in Dante’s vision, the souls in my City of Purgatory have no idea why they are there and grope uncertainly for whatever degree of tikkun may be available to them.

Once a month I attend an “open mike” poetry reading group at the Flynndog in Burlington, and usually I read something from the work in progress, discovering how it sounds in front of an audience.  It’s a great way of focusing on what needs revision, and how much.  This month, I got some warm applause for the following exerpt.

The action takes place in late August, 2005.  The character known as me has just come away from an encounter with a group of pro-life protesters outside an abortion clinic.  I have He has been walking along the road, lost in thoughts about the protesters:

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Prayer in a godless world facing environmental disaster

July 7th, 2010

Dante says somewhere, I think it’s in the Paradiso, that the purpose of writing his Commedia is to help create new and better ways to pray.  Not the Miltonic explaining of god’s ways to man, or the expounding of doctrine, or the description of the world with the rewarding of the just and the punishing of sinners and the placing of everyone in his place – just prayer.  I love that.  I don’t believe in god, but I do believe in prayer.

Since I’m neither a theologian nor a philosopher, I can’t define precisely what I mean by the word, but it has something to do with using language as an instrument to place oneself in proper relation to the world. 

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Why would a Vermont author in his right mind rewrite Dante’s Inferno?

May 25th, 2010

At last I got tired of trying to explain to my friends just what
it was that I saw in Dante’s Comedy. It might have appeared to them
as a harmless obsession, differing from others in which I periodically
indulged – fly fishing, the novels of Henry James and Patrick O’Brien,
certain television series – mainly in that it never went away. Once
very year or so I would read through from the first line of the Inferno
to the last of Paradiso. How to explain the attraction of a late medieval
Catholic vision of the afterlife, however exalted its reputation, for
a very contemporary agnostic-Jewish-Buddhist American?


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