To Read Dante is to Educate the Eye (I)

On Day #1 of our Dante class, we consider care-fully a potent comment by poet and Dante translator, John Ciardi, one that shapes and informs our discussion throughout our journey to Paradise:

“To read Dante is to educate the eye (I).”

For the sake of even more power, I’ve inserted the play with words pronoun, I.  It will serve perfectly as the title of a Dante anthology project that I have had in the works since around 1992.  The papers students have written while reading Dante have often been personal essays describing how deeply Dante has been “reading them.”  

The faces of pilgrims grounded in well-earned “serious joy” (John Ciardi) after scaling Mt. Purgatory

Over these many years, what has been most impressive, and actually inspiring, is that the students have regularly put their lives on the line in response to becoming mindful “fellow pilgrims on the road” with Dante.  Much has been published on Dante’s “Comedy,” but in very few places can lovers of Dante find well-written and poignant essays by HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.

“The time was the beginning of the morning and the sun was mounting with those stars that were with it when Divine Love first set in motion those fair things, so that the hour of the day and the sweet season moved me to good hope…”

Dante Alighieri

The goal of this anthology project is crystal clear: To fill this gap in Dante studies by creating a published book containing the strong and authentic voices of HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS from Gilman/The Bryn Mawr School/Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, MD who have engaged with Dante in the spirit of “serious joy” (John Ciardi).  To borrow and modify a lyric from Tom Chapin, this collection will help “to pass the [Dante] music on…”

There are many ways to support this project:

  1. Read Dante sometime and in-joy the journey.  The warm and potent energy will spread our way.
  2. Listen (Often!!!) to Harry Chapin’s story songs.  He and Dante were introduced many years ago in our class, and when “they are in the building,” the universe simply becomes bigger and brighter.  Living well in such a world certainly will add to the spirit of this enterprise. 
  3. Buy the book! Proceeds from the sale of this book will be divided equally between The Dante Society of America and The Harry Chapin Foundation

Finally, my sole (soul!) role with this anthology is to edit and to promote.  No money, not a cent, will be earned by me on this project.  If there are any dollars left over after the first printing, they will be split and sent to the above organizations.  

An ordinary “play ON words” just makes us groan; this “play WITH words,” however, courtesy of Carly Rizzuto, makes us happy and hungry for more DAWN-te

Thank you for your interest and support. 

A grateful fellow pilgrim,
Dan Christian