Commedia Divina


When rereading and reciting the 14,000 line poem of Dante’s very sad comedy in quarantine, I am having this strange daydream about palm trees, the clearest of azure blue waters, and a little shack on the sandiest of white beaches that rents scuba diving masks to tourists.

Banishment is a theme with a great many writers. Those who have written masterpieces after being forced out of their homes for political or punitive reasons are personal favorites of mine. Several authors, poets, and playwrights I have read and studied were inspired to write great works of art while living as strangers in a strange land; under the influence of heartbreak and despair…and Dewars and soda.

Writing the great tome to home while wandering lost in the woods escorted by their favorite dead poets and long lost loves. Terrified, enlightened, tortured, confused, and running from beasts through the nine circles of hell; never quite reaching paradise (unless their tragedy is a comedy eventually deemed divine). Romanticizing that place where the air is cleaner, the sky is bluer, the sun shines brighter, the food tastes better, the people are kinder…and the line at Trader Joe’s is always shorter.

Artists of the Middle Ages have always been obsessed with the concept of sin and in Dante’s Commedia Divina, we are introduced to the seven deadliest, while also trying to make sense of the story of Iesus Christus. You can do what you will with the allegory. For me, it is a most excellent book to reread during our current medieval plague. I just hope the Renaissance is right around the corner and I live long enough to crush a cup with the next poetae divinum.

Meanwhile, you may click on the link and hear me read Canto 1 form Dante’s Inferno during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic in Queens…which is kind of redundant.

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