Daily Archives: February 22, 2010

A Canto a Day (Keeps the Demons Away?)

I suppose, since I’m in the business of encouraging others in their spiritual disciplines for Lent, I ought to adopt one for myself. Having much experience at this time of year in fasting from (vino, sweets, etc.), this year I decided I would instead feast upon. Add instead of subtract.

So this is what I decided today, in the shower, on my day off. Couple days late I realize. (Is there a place in Hell for procrastinators?)

My spiritual discipline this year will be Dante.

And I thought it might be fun to invite a few friends to join me in Hell.

I’ve spoken so many times to my literary friends about how great it would be if we could get together a group to study together, climb Dante’s (literal, I might add) literary mountain as a group. Never seemed to be enough time. So, I thought…this would be the perfect time to make this a (virtual) group effort.

So, joining me are my friends John Timpane (he of Philly Inquirer fame, and other exploits); and Prof. Gordon Mikoski, of Princeton Seminary.  I will let them introduce themselves…when we figure out how to do all this. And, there may also be others joining us as well.

And, if there are still others out there who want to join us in this motley band, descending through the harrowing gates…join us! Chime in! I understand this blog service is pretty easy to make comments. Please blast away. It would be lovely if we could all make it to Purgatory together.

No experience necessary; indeed, we hope you will enter with, as the Buddhists would say, “beginners mind”, and engage with the poem out of its strangeness. It would be rich if you would bring your questions and curiosity – as we will seek to do as well.

So, here are the rules. A Canto a day. Each of us “contributors” will weigh in with a reflection on the Canto for the day, and then we invite others to comment or reflect with us. Appropriate for Lent, our commitment is only to read the first Canticle, Inferno. All 34 Cantos. Which adds up to about a Canto a day (excluding Sundays, which as you liturgically savvy folk out there know, don’t count for Lent anyway). Beyond that…? Club Purgatory? We’ll have to figure that one out later.

And when do we begin? Canto 1 is on for Wednesday, February 24. 1300.

For any out there who want to follow along with us, here are the resources we plan (at this point) to use:

We will primarily be reading the Pinsky translation of Inferno. It’s really excellent, in my opinion. You can probably get it at the library. Good alternative: the Ciardi version. But, any old translation will do – and there are online translations out there too. (We’ll try to get more resources up here at some point).

I also plan to use the free (what a great word) audiobook/podcast of Longfellow’s translation. How great is public domain? It will take about 7-10 minutes to listen to each canto, I figure.

“Then he set out, and I followed where he led.”

– Jeff Vamos

PS – bear with us as we get all this together!