Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Project Dante

Dante Aleghieri,  1265 - 1321

Yes, that Italian poet from the thirteenth century.  The one Bob Dylan sang about.  He was born in Florence, backed the wrong political party, and spent the last decades of his life in exile writing the greatest trilogy ever. (The Florence City Council rescinded Dante's exile sentence in June, 2008).  From hell through purgatory and then to paradise, Dante got back at everybody who ever harmed him, his words having a strength and a resonance that has echoed through the intervening centuries. The fact that he wrote in the vulgar tongue, the language of the 99%, rather than Latin, hasn't hurt his popularity.  I am in awe of the power of his poetry.

What would happen if Dante lived today?  As someone who was cast out by the ruling power structure, would he take his words to the street?  Recently, I have been working on a project that supposes that Dante was a tagger, his lines mixing with other graffiti here in Roma.

Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta piu caramente
(you shall leave everything you hold most dear)
                                             PARADISO XVII / 55

Vieni a veder la tua Roma che piange
(come and see your Rome and how she weeps)
                                             PURGATORIO VI / 112

L'anima tue e da viltade offesa
(your spirit is assailed by cowardice)
                                 INFERNO II / 45

Vengo del loco ove tornare disio
(I come from a place that I wish to return to)
                          INFERNO II / 71

Like a criminal returning to the scene of a crime, I would watch peoples' reactions (or not) to the postings.  The one that got ZERO attention, was the one posted over a political poster near Palazzo Madama, seat of the Italian Senate.  The text posted (I thought appropriately) was "come and look at your Rome and how she weeps"