Q: Hi! When a person’s entire home is trashed, cluttered, disorganized, and dirty (two floors, three bedrooms, two and a half baths, for example) and they live alone with chronic illness and most likely won’t receive any assistance in cleaning, where/which room, in your expert opinion, is the most important place for them to start? Thank you for your answer and guidance.
A: Start with where you…
This week’s Ask UfYH!
I’d just finished making much ado about the digital points of entry into Dante when I was brought back to the oldest and most reliable technology that exists for encountering the poet: a poem – a poem “after Dante,” a “version” or “imitation” of a piece of the Divine Comedy.
My guide in this was Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Rowan joined Dinaw Mengestu and Georgetown’s Lannan Fellows for a reading at Copley Hall on campus last night, preceded by a conversation at the Lannan Center, which I moderated. To prepare, I turned again to Phillips’ remarkable first book, The Ground, and read his “version” of a passage from the Purgatorio as if for the first time. It begins this way:
He was gone. Like a leap
Of flame that, after having burst from the sun,
Is dragged back into the sun as though nothing
Leaving only the seen surface of the sun.
Rowan began his reading by reading – speaking – his piece of the Purgatorio. But not before explaining that it takes place near the top of Mount Purgatory, where Dante meets a Provençal troubadour (his name was Arnaut Daniel) whose songs in dialect were at once earthy and profound.
In the poem, Rowan makes this singer a singer from our own time, whose voice he rendered perfectly in his own voice for the Copley audience:
And slowly a bright starfield fell to the sea,
Fell about the one my guide had pointed out.
And he said, Rastaman. Higher man. Angel
Seven sealed … No. But I smell some of the smoke
Of Babylon on I. Come closer. Closer.
So I-man ave some ital veneration.
I am Bob, who weep and strum and gather and
Love all tings lickle and small. Jah left I lung
And guitar to sing to everyone. All dem!
It’s through poetry like this that the doors of perception are opened.