Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Hal Coase 'Ochre Pitch' Gregory Woods 'On Queerness' Kirsty Gunn 'On Risk! Carl Phillips' Galina Rymbu 'What I Haven't Written' translated by Sasha Dugdale Gabriel Josipovici 'No More Stories' Valerie Duff-Strautmann 'Anne Carson's Wrong Norma'
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 263, Volume 48 Number 3, January - February 2022.

Translating Dante Alberto Manguel
Ned Denny, B: After Dante (Carcanet) £18.99

Heavenly host singing Gloria in Excelsis, engraving by Gustave Doré, c.1868

How much do poets know about their own creations? Other than post-partum rationalisations such as Poe’s ‘Philosophy of Composition’ or Coleridge passing on the blame to the Person from Porlock, there are not many confessions of how the trick works, and even these are rarely convincing, maybe because deep down inside every bard is in fact a doubting, doubtful craftsperson with little or no idea of how this creation thing came about. Dante, however, was clearly aware of what he was accomplishing as he was working on his Commedia. Rarely was a poet so conscious of his craft, of how his thoughts were faithfully incarnated in his words, both as sense and as sound. I can’t think of any other poet who with such hubris dares us, his readers, to follow him on the sea of invention and discovery that he is himself fording for the first time, while proudly telling us to ‘wheel about’ because our puny crafts (except for a few happy ones) cannot cross the ocean he is about to cross: ‘Do not set out,’ he warns us at the beginning of Paradiso, ‘on depths where, losing me, you’ll lose yourselves.’ What poetic chutzpah, what absolute confidence in the poetic art, are necessary to tell us, as Dante does, that he’s received among the inhabitants of the Noble Castle of the First Circle of Hell –Homer, Horace, ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image