Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Glad to Be Home

I'm glad to be home from Eugene, Oregon, and back with my son and his momma. I had a great time at the Dante in Translation conference. Every presentation was interesting in its own way, and many of them were top notch. My thanks go out to the Dante Society of America and the University of Oregon for putting on the conference, to my friend Greg Parks for letting me crash on his couch all weekend (what a stroke of luck that I have friends in Eugene!), and to my parents for paying for the plane tickets as my birthday gift.

Before going, I was worried that a lot of people at the conference would turn their noses up at me. After all, I am nobody to them, and it is a bit audacious for some nobody to translate Dante into terza rima. However, I was pleased to find my fears unfounded. Everyone I met at the conference was kind and supportive, even enthusiastic. Thank you to Gina, Warren, Christian, Simone, Ron, Antonio, and Albert for providing a warm and inviting environment; I hope to meet many of you again at future events. Thank you to Mary Jo Bang for a nice discussion about different perspectives on translation (our approaches are vastly different, after all), and thank you to Sandow Birk for autographing my copy of his Paradiso. Thank you to everyone else I met for a number of good conversations about Dante, literature, and history.

I think I'll end this post with a poem about translation. I wrote it after seeing an image of Dante's death mask (a plaster cast of his face made upon his death). Appropriately, it is in terza rima, and it is ten lines long (which I like to think Dante would have approved of). To anyone who happens to read this, please enjoy:

            The Mask of Dante

            How vain, to want to see the poet’s face
            so long after his death.  As if I’d find
            some vestige of his wisdom, or some trace

            of all his words, some aspect of his mind
            within his face.  What, even, would I ask
            of these sad eyes, this craggy nose, these lines

            set in by his life’s grief, if these lips cast
            in stone began to speak?  The face, perhaps
            like every face, is nothing but a mask;

            and I try not to see, but wear, the mask.

J. Simon Harris
Raleigh, North Carolina

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