(after Dante, Inferno i: 1-30)
12 years into the new millennium
the shops and offices on Albert St.
are emptyingFOR LEASE
ON ADVANTAGEOUS TERMSThe bubble’s burst
Only the trees seem satisfied to lean
over the motorway approaches
greener – REDDER – LARGER than before
but on benefit day (as you might guess)
every bar and park-bench’s fullYour old
Ford Laser looks right at home
on Fanshawe St.Pull over
(no reason why) by Victoria Park
and walk up College Hill
where once the HYDRA bacon sign
frowned down on us with threats of
steelthough you’ve lost sight
of such-like pieties in these
pre-xmas madness days
So even when you get the fear
at the sight of some photographer’s
shop window full of soon-to-be
knocked-up teenagers in skin-tight
gownswith their barely human
dates crammed into tuxedos
horny wrists protrudinglike when
you’ve swum sideways out of a rip
and staggered ashore exhaustedglad
you made it but not sure how you did
you look down on spaghetti junction
and resolve to complete your gift shopping
then see The Hobbitfinally
[AUP New Poets 3: Janis Freegard, Katherine Liddy, Reihana Robinson (2008)]
So far only Katherine Dolan (published above as Katherine Liddy) has responded to the challenge to produce her own version of the opening of Dante's Divine Comedy. Her translation is characteristically sharp and focussed, I feel, with some particularly happy choices in "my self's mere" for lago del cor [lake of the heart], and "feral bush" for selva selvaggia [savage forest].
I very much admire her transposition of that trade-mark Dantesque extended metaphor about the swimmer escaping from the waves, too:
And just like one who, gasping,
spat up from the sea on the shore,
turns to the breakers and stares,
so my soul, still a runaway,
turned back to look on the pass
that never let out a living soul.
I suppose I still have to have a go at it myself (as promised), though, despite feeling a marked inability to compete with Katherine.
I don't know if the above can count as any kind of a translation, but it's the best I seem able to produce at present. I guess it's more of a continuation of the poem "Xmas" which I posted on this blog some six years back, on 3rd December 2006, than any kind of response to Dante's quest narrative.
Is he just a "garrulous old Italian," though, as Katherine claims in her comment? I take her point that a lot of people may undertake the task of re-presenting his words as a kind of embodiment of the spiritual path (a little like walking the lines of the Chartres labyrinth). I can't help feeling a certain awe at the precision and sharpness of his imagination, though, even after all these centuries.
It may be a bit much to claim him as a proto-SF writer (as so many have done), but his tale still remains far more readable and even terrifying than any other medieval (or even classical) epic I can think of - with the possible exception of certain sections of the Iliad ...
[Tara Beth Weishaupl: Walking the Chartres Labyrinth (2009)]