Dante Or, The End of Poetry

By PATRICK PRITCHETT

for Raul Zurita

And he stirred his coffee, the old poet, and spoke of
Dante, and how Homer’s journey to the underworld
wove a thread through Virgil to the selva oscura. And
that the Commedia was not the apex of Christianity, but
its finale. That the enormous architecture of the poem
was not built to house theology, but to protect man from
the absence of God, who had already departed.

He said the beauty of Dante was in the flow of the
rhymes, so subtle you did not even notice them. They
flow like the water of speech and not even Spanish can
capture them.

The old poet spoke slowly. As if feeling the weight of
each word, its monumental heft. Its slippery lightness.
And we talked of the work of poetry. Of how to revive
the flicker of logos, its small fire, in a world where only a
few fallen sparks persist.

And he said: we are at the end of poetry. Because a word
is no longer a word, an image is no longer an image, and
this has killed God.

He said, “I have tried to write Paradise.”

Patrick Pritchett’s books of poetry include Burn – Doxology for Joan of Arc (Chax), Gnostic Frequencies (Spuyten Duyvil), and the forthcoming SONG X (Talisman House), as well as the chapbooks Ark Dive, Reside, Lives of the Poets, Antiphonal, and Salt, My Love. He teaches at Harvard and at Amherst College.

[Purchase your copy of Issue 09 here.]

Dante Or, The End of Poetry

Related Posts

Image of almonds pouring from a glass bowl.

Reina María Rodríguez: Poems in Translation

REINA MARÍA RODRÍGUEZ
Naturally, Flaubert’s parrot / could not be called Chucho, / his author wouldn’t stick him / with a name like that. / From which follows the importance of names. / But in the stories last night / —the reconstruction of a postcard / which we were creating...

Image of hill, river, and houses.

Joss

PATRICIA LIU
Paper is thin. In the beginning, still billows in the wind, still petal-like, still grounded in this world / of living. The incense is the only material that translates the viscera to mist. Early, the fog has not yet / lifted, and we move through the white drip as if through total darkness. Fish lost in the deep under- / water.

poetry feature image

March 2021 Poetry Feature: Sylvie Durbec

SYLVIE DURBEC
I still don’t know how to type a tilde on a computer keyboard / when writing the name of a Spanish or Portuguese writer I love. / Nor do I know what poetry is. / I don’t know whether we need it. Or not. / And what we really need here. / Elsewhere, water, bread, milk.