Poetry is not just a written act. It is also performative. The great Dante Alighieri performed his own great epic in front of live audiences, who were, reportedly, held spellbound. His rendition was so impassioned, and his visage so dark, that many thought he had, indeed, truly been to hell.
The English Cantos and the broader creativity of The Wider Circle will be hosting a number of events over the next few years. See details of them below.
Dante: 700th Anniversary
June 10th – 21st, 2021
10:00am – 4:30pm, every day
2021 is a special year in terms of Dante and Dante appreciation. 700 years ago on September 13th or 14th 1321, Dante Alighieri died in Ravenna. When he died he had been in exile from the city he loved, his home city, Florence, since 1302, or for 19 years. Despite yearning for his home, he was never able to get back there.
Dante was then, and is now, one of the greatest poets the world has ever known; perhaps only Shakespeare and Homer may be compared with him and his poetry. It is difficult too to overestimate his achievements, not only in poetry, (for example, in his Divine Comedy he devised the terza rima form, avidly taken up and used by other poets subsequently) but more widely in political and theological terms. To take one example of the latter: the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory was only formulated late in the C12th, but it achieved universal fame through Dante’s poem. The legacy of Dante is, therefore, huge.
Taking ideas of form and content from Dante, James Sale weaves a magical recreation of what Hell (HellWard), Purgatory (StairWell) and Heaven (PassageWay) mean for a contemporary audience; the three parts form the whole of The English Cantos.
James Sale published HellWard in 2020 a contemporary imitation of Dante’s work and genius.
The English Cantos website represents a celebration of all things related to Dante’s Divine Comedy for writers and artists in the English-speaking world. With contributions from other writers – poets, translators, authors – and visual artists – adding their responses to either the majesty of Dante’s original work, or to James Sale’s contemporary version of this epic. We hope in 2021 to create a new appreciation of Dante’s sublime work, not just through passive appreciation, but with a re-creation in new artistic endeavours; both paying homage to Dante, whilst also treading fresh ground.
There will also be a special event taking place on Saturday, 12th June. Details TBC!
The Wider Circle
June 10th – 21st, 2020
“The Wider Circle” introduces James Sale’s Divine Comedies and The English Cantos, startling yet accessible poems that describe a descent into hell and back.
Follow the journey through the HellWard.
Meet the poet, artists, and other collaborators.
Engage in interactive activities; explore a virtual exhibition using story, poetry, image, and choose your own path through it via a game.
View evocative artwork by artists Linda Sale, Angela Perrett, and Judith Warbey.
“The Wider Circle” is for anyone who has an interest in our path through life’s travails, the triumph of the human spirit, and beauty beyond the merely literal.