Saturday, March 24, 2007


June 15, 1763 - January 5, 1828
(Western calendar)

Due to the troubles I experienced in my first two interviews, I must admit I was a bit gun-shy in doing another. In my first interview, Dante had proven to be very racist and offensive and was wholly disinterested in the interview, not to mention I believe he lied to me on at least one particular occasion. Later, my interview with Walt Whitman ended up falling short of what I’d consider good (he had a strange fascination with a certain flatulant noise that governed our entire session, and didn’t answer my questions much). So, when it came time to do a third interview, I was worried and had some reservations. I chose legendary Kobayashi Issa (‘Issa’ to most), who lived in late 18th and early 19th century Japan.

I am pleased and delighted over this interview. It went much better than those previous, and Issa was quite informative. There were a few digressions, but in general, this was an engaging and attentive interview with a talented and rather personable poet.


When we met in my study, I found in Issa’s face that very Japanese duality in which both happiness and sadness can somehow be shown at the same time, in a single expression. This was a face that exuded a sort of importance, but a very human one. It was almost upsetting to sit across from, but I found myself caught by it almost instantly. There are award winning actors that couldn’t pull off that look. It is an expression rarely seen in the west, and I think it involves the eyes more than anything. Issa looked as if he’d been painfully tortured at some point, yet also seemed as if no such thing could have ever happened to him. He was amicable and relaxed, while terse and worried, if you can imagine that. His clothing was very loose and he slumped much, not quite like the picture of him I’ve placed in this post, but definitely hunched.

Kobayashi Issa is thought by most historians to have had a destitute and troubled life, involving many tribulations. These asperities are said to be the impetus behind much of his work, and a lens by which to measure his conflictions in that work. He specialized in haikai, a short form of poetry that we in the west now refer to as haiku, and it has tantalized the western mind (though we often exclude many of its actual attributes) since we first came into contact with it. That such depth can be created in a work so short both baffles and astounds us.

Issa and I settled into our chairs and, as a gesture, I had made a strong effort to get ahold of gyokuro tea for us to have, which was considered very fine and expensive in his time of life. Unfortunately, all I could manage was some generic mint tea from the corner store. Silly as I felt, I made it and set up in my study. As the incredibly hot tea sat in our cups and cooled, we began. His English was sparse, but easily understood.

RS: First, I’d like to thank you for allowing me to interview you. I am very pleased to be able to speak with you about your life and work.

KI (with a sharp nod): Okay.

RS: I think many people would like to know more about your youth. It is supposed that some of the difficulties you faced growing up influenced your later work strongly. Certainly this is the case with many writers, but your particular style of writing, mainly in haikai, demonstrates a remarkable ability to display emotion and sensibility. Can you tell us about your childhood and how it may have shaped you as a man and poet?

KI (thinking about this for some time): Okay, but not so quick you ask questions. I am learning English.

RS: I’ll go slower.

KI: Yes, so I understand though. So okay, first, I am born in Kashiwabara, in Shinano Province. Take more for my mother than father. But she dies when I am very young, and so then I take more for my father. He is a farmer, and so I was a farmer, and we grow mostly daikon radish, and also konyaku potato. Sometimes law bok. I don’t like the daikon radish. Everyone had daikon radish, and also we did not grow it well, and so can’t sell it very much. We always have daikon radish left over, so we eat it always, so I don’t like it after we eat it for too many years. I like law bok, though.

RS: After your mother’s death, your father remarried. It is known that you had trouble with your stepmother. Can you describe the relationship you had with her over the years?

KI: You already say the relationship: Trouble. But for more detail, I can tell you. Satsu marry my father, but then she hits me and is very cruel. Eh, mothers hitting okay for the kids, but my stepmother hit too much, too hard. She is mean to me and jealous I am my mother’s son. She has a son with my father, my half-brother Senroku. She thinks my father is her possession only, and so doesn’t trust me or love me. But my father love me, just there is very young Senroku to take care of, and the farm, and my stepmother. So, I am fifteen and I leave my father’s farm and start in my life.

RS: Tell us about that life. What are these tragedies that seem to occupy much of your work?

KI: Oh, sad. People always look at sad, not the will. I have no tragedies, just things that happen and many think sad. But so okay, I have no money, and my children die. I keep living and have my own troubles, and I get married many times, but they die, and one I leave, so forget my stepmother for many years. I keep getting married and have more kids, but they all die. But then my father dies when I am older, and my stepmother again must be dealt with. She stop me from his leaving me money and our farm, and tries to take it all. I have a stroke. I get into a small house near my father’s property and try to get the inheritance. Finally, I get my father’s money and farm, but there is not much money, only property. My father is dead, and I am trying not to be confused, then I need to be confused, so I let her live there and don’t live there with her. Then she is more cruel and I get sick, so I make her leave. She dies not too far past. And Satsu hates me until she dies, too. Senroku never talk to me either. But she never trusts me, even after my father dies. She is good with the roots, growing roots on the property, but not good for people. They buy her roots but then stay away from her, she has no friends until she dies. Senroku not even visits her much. But she is dead, so the farm is mine.

RS: That’s terrible.

KI (shrugging): Not terrible. Souls are the same. She has only different heart. You don’t have to like a heart if you like a soul, and so you understand everyone is confused and okay. Growing roots and growing angers... they are similar. So, she is dead, then I get married again and live on my farm, but have another stroke. My wife is very beautiful and young. I just look at her as much as I can, and then I keep getting sick, and a fire eats the farm, so I lose all but my wife, and we go live in the grain barn. Then, best thing happened.

RS: Yes?

KI: Yes. I die and can relax.

RS: Shit!

KI: No, shit is over.

RS (laughing): Well, you’d earned it, I suppose.

KI (smiling): So yes, okay. But you know how sad things are for arts. These things are not sad anymore if you have given them the most light and make them into draw or paint, singing music or haikai... anything. As your Summer in Love says: Go with the flow. Your new writers know this, too.

[It seemed fascinating to me that Issa had mentioned the Summer of Love, of all things, from the American late 60’s, and the hippy movement of the time. I wondered what other things he may have to say regarding modernity, or at least, our newest versions of it.]

RS: I see. Would you say there are any modern authors you’ve taken a liking to, onward since your death?

KI (excited about changing the subject): Liking to... so, that I like?

RS: Yes, authors you like.

KI: Okay. Alexander Pope. Yes, he is tidy on his poems. And I like Murakami stories but because he also remind me of a man I knew. Ah! I like very much your Mr. Stephen King also.

RS: Really? I wouldn’t have taken you for a horror fan.

KI (puzzled and waving his hand as if to cool himself): The fan?

RS: Oh no, sorry. I only meant that I didn’t expect you would like horror books.

KI: Horror book. I do like, yes, very much.

RS: Interesting. Out of curiosity, which of King’s books do you like most?

KI: Oh, I think the book he writes, Christie.

RS: Christine.

KI: Yes. Surprising car with a ghost, you know? Very eh... shocking to be scared by car and ghost, right? Fun book.

RS: Maybe he could write a book for you about haunted daikon radishes.

KI (laughing): Mean radish! I would buy it!

[We both begin laughing here over the silliness of the idea, and it takes a moment to get ourselves under control. He sips his tea and frowns, but then simply sets it aside. I probably shouldn't have offered something so boring and cheap.]

RS (after we’ve settled): Now, tell me what drew you to haiku.

KI: Haikai embodies. You have soul inside mind, but you can not say it, so you see something in a place, with a time, and you write it in form. Okay? You free it and capture it. You can spend a year for just one of them. Okay. Also, I was with Jôdoshinshû, and they are poets with haikai. So I am buddhist and am going to do haikai, but more than others, I fall in love in one, so easily. I can’t stop writing the haikai in my life, like I can’t stop being buddhist. Each contains the other for me.

RS: Can you describe Chikua's Nirokuan haiku school? It is known you attended this school for several years in your twenties.

KI (brightens): Chikua! Ikyô loves you still after hundreds of years!

RS: That’s right, you used the name ‘Ikyô’ while in attendance.

KI: Yes, many names. Issa is not my birth name, either. I am born Kobayashi Yatarô. Issa means Cup-of-Tea. I was Issa, Chief Beggar of Shinano Province.

RS: Chief Beggar.

KI: Yes, you have to beg.for awhile, right? Before you are born, after you die. What is this but asking for what must be? So, but yes, I enjoy Chikua’s school. He is strict, but he is also very alive. He shows you how to get inside haikai and meet yourself with nature and life. You have to breathe inside one, and so he teach you how, but at first, you just breathe Chikua’s breath in it, until you learn how to do your own and write the haikai outside of yourself. Then Chikua... if you learn it, he’d smile. Chikua had a smile you never saw until you deserved it... but okay, I say impossible anyone could smile like Chikua could.

RS: Is there anything about your life you would have changed?

KI: No strokes. They make you not talk for short time. I like to talk.

RS (quoting an English translation of one of Issa’s haiku):

how irritating!
the wild geese freely
call their friends

KI: Yes. I had stroke when I wrote it. No talk for Kobayashi.

RS: Well Kobayashi, I want to thank you for coming here and allowing me the interview. It’s been an honor talking with you about your life.

KI: Okay. Good fun. So, old poets, new poets... still learning, right?

RS: Very much so.

KI: Okay so, cool.

[At this point I reach over toward my laptop and turned the recorder off, the interview over. However, in doing so, Issa notices an image on my laptop’s screen for which I had earlier saved as my desktop image (it is the same picture of him found at the head of this interview).]

KI (pointing at screen): Hey, me?

RS: Yes. It’s a well known image. Now that I've met you, I'd have to say the picture doesn't look much like you.

KI (raising eyebrows and smiling): No, but so you want better picture?

RS: What do you mean?

KI: Make so I have pen for that picture.

[I was confused by this, but hoped perhaps he was going to create a new haiku for the world, something no one in history would have read until now. This would be an honor beyond anything I could imagine. Even an autograph would have been monumental. I open the image in Paintbrush and select the text tool, my mind turning in the possibilities. Issa then looks at the screen, thinks for a moment and selects the pen tool. He then slowly procedes to deface the picture. When finished, he chuckles and captions it.]

KI: Keep and use. There is more fun picture.

[I stare at his new version of the famous image. I don’t know how to respond, but finally manage to say something.]

RS: So, okay.

Changed by Kobayashi Issa, Chief Cup-of-Tea of Haiku Temple

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Walt Whitman

May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892

After my interview with Dante turned out to be somewhat of a bust, I decided to brace myself and try again with another major figure in poetry. This time, I went American, and managed to summon the extraordinarily influential forefather of American poetry, Walt Whitman. When I met him in my study, he seemed quite amicable and friendly. He appeared as the later images of him depicted: Old, large beard, and somewhat of a Christ figure / wise hermit sort of man. He was taller than I'd thought him, and when he sat down opposite me, his posture slumped into the chair in a way that demonstrated a comfort and relaxed nature that I, myself, could never posess. Unlike my earlier interview with Dante, Walt Whitman seemed to be able to fill up the entire room with himself. He also had the keen ability to make every single syllable out of his mouth sound strongly important.

RS: Do you feel your contact with Emerson played a role in your revisions of those early poems?

WW: Everything plays a role, certainly. The ant in the dale, the horse-rider’s bit, the britches you choose for a particular day. Ralph affected me, yes, but not in the direct fashion. It was more of a quiet racket that you couldn’t ignore, but could scarce hear, as of those impensions often shot from buttocks.

RS: Impensions shot from buttocks?

WW: Precisely natural, as is your response.

RS: Are you referring to farting?

[Whitman seems to ponder this for a moment, and ultimately shrugs, giving no verbal answer. I begin wondering if he has used a grand metaphor and I’ve ignorantly misinterpreted it, making myself seem silly and of a lesser mind. After a weighty silence, I decide to simply continue.]

RS: How many drafts did ‘Leaves of Grass’ go through? There were nine published versions, but most can’t but wonder how many drafts you went through, by the end of your life. I know most consider ‘Leaves of Grass’ to be your greatest achievement.

WW: Well, it was one of my only achievements, bookwise. I mean, I didn’t write a lot of things, preferring to spend my time rewriting what I already had. Mostly. And yes, I went through many, many drafts, though they weren’t drafts so much as versions, because I felt all of them were publishable (and most were published). Most of the ongoing changes were aesthetical and imminent, and I went back and forth in the versions, trying to enforce a sense of ominous self-explosion, you know. Or at the very least, a hearty resonation, something with clarity but that could reverberate well, as if that meaningful breach of an odious expulsion.

RS: Breach of an odious expulsion?

WW: Of course. There is strength most in life when releasing what life no longer needs. Life is in the traces, you see, not the source.

[Again, I can’t help but think he’s using flatulence as a metaphor, here, but ultimately decide against saying anything for now.]

RS: That sounds semi-eastern in tone, and certainly it’s known you were influenced by eastern philosophy in your time. Can you describe the force eastern philosophy had on you, and how it may have infiltrated your work?

WW: Force? Infiltrated? That sounds a term more with war than poetry, my boy.

RS: Well, yes. I meant only that your work seems effected heavily by the more Eastern doctrines of thought, particularly for the time and location of your writing life.

WW: Philosophy has always created a duality in me. It both lifts and lowers me, reaching my mind through brassy shouts, as well as through more undulating burbles, as of those in a foul breath trickling from a moist pipe.

[There it is again: That strangely suspect terminology he keeps using.]

WW: Of course, little of it is true. There is only one truth.

RS: Which is?

[Whitman leans back in his chair, lost in thought. After a moment, gives a decisive nod and sits up. I watch as he licks his lips. He then lets out this kind of abrupt and weak honking noise. After, and seeming to have gained some satisfaction with this nonsensical and silly noise, he closes his eyes, keeping them closed and remaining still until I decide to try another question.]

RS: Your political views have been a subject that decades of criticism can’t seem to fully unearth. Can you explain to some degree your thoughts on, say, the support you held for the Mexican-American war?

WW (trance-like): Unearth...

[Several moments pass without further answer and Whitman almost seems to have shut down, physically. He makes the honking noise again, but much quieter, now lost in the serene moment he seems to have created for himself by making the bizarre, flatulant sound with his mouth. It’s as if this sound has taken him to a weird, Whitman-only place in his mind.]

RS: So... did... let’s talk about Song of Myself.

WW (snapping out of it): Sorry. I lost my line for a moment. Song of Myself, you mentioned? Hoo, yes. I worked hard on that book. Let’s see... All me, derided supremely, but always turning in the last laugh, so to speak. Americans were worried, you see. Masturbation, the male body, pleasure, the natural state of flesh and senses... the people were so puritanistic and worried, which is sad. ‘Song of Myself’, in essence, was a more real purity than even puritanism. What is more pure than the love of life? It coddles to the touch, a hearth-dog, or a man in the squat while making his tremulous cut.

RS: And ‘tremulous cut’ refers to?

WW: Oh, of air.

RS: You’ve referenced a squatting man making a tremulous ‘cut of air’? I- listen, I deeply respect what you’ve done with your poetry, Mr. Whitman, but—

WW (waving): Walt.

RS: Okay, Walt. I very much admire your work. The way you write has won over my ear more times than I can explain, but I have to be honest, here. I keep noticing these metaphors you’re using in this interview... and I can’t help but ask: Are you... Do you... No, okay: Are you purposely making metaphors about farting? Or am I an idiot and I’m just not getting what you’re really saying? I mean, I write a lot of poetry, myself, and I’m really just sensing that you’ve been continually bringing up farting since we started the interview. So... yes? No?

WW: Ha! This is the meat. I came to dine but this... this talk now is the hearty portion, don’t you agree?

RS: You like my last question more than my prepared ones?

WW: Hurrah! Speak!

RS: Uh, speak what? I don’t—

WW: Ask more! Quick! Top of your head!

[It seems Walt wants me to question him in a more improvisational manner.]

RS: Um, shit... uh, how come you’re naked in that picture I found of you?

[Whitman makes the weak honking noise again, grinning.]

RS: Is that supposed to be your answer?

WW: Ask another!

RS: Uh, did you wonder if your ego was out of check with ‘Song of Myself’, because it was a large poem about yourself?

[The honking noise.]

RS: Can you give me a yes or no? Or elaborate?

WW: Hurrah!

RS: Yeah, hurrah.

WW: This is promise! We’re to it! Keep going.

RS: Are you gay?

WW (eyes widening): Oh God. Not this again.

RS: Sorry, you said top of my head. That’s what came up. There’s been controversy since you died over whether you were gay or not.

WW: We were to it. Now it’s ruined.

RS: Well, that’s why I prepare questions, to avoid awkwardness.

WW: The gay thing. This interview just became a base endeavor. [Whitman sighs here] All right, once and for all, I’ll answer that question for the public and private. I say this, and this only: I love having sex and being in love, and mostly with women.

RS: I see.

WW: Now, let’s rummage in what we’ve learned, eh questioner? I’ll ask you a question.

RS: Well, I don’t really think—


RS: Jesus, okay. Shoot.

WW: Why would you take up a pen in this day and age, young man?

RS: Shit, I’m compelled.

WW: No. Incorrect. You get no hurrah.

RS: How the hell can you tell me what I feel is incorrect?

WW: No questions, it’s still my turn. Whose poetry do you enjoy most?

RS: Oh, that’s huge. I’d have to start with—

WW: No hurrah! No, no. Incorrect.

RS: It’s opinion! And how would you know? I didn’t say anything.

WW: The only truthful answer is ‘mine’.

RS: Do you mean ‘mine’, as in my own poetry, or ‘mine’, as in your poetry?

WW: Unimportant. And it’s still my turn. Last question: What do you feel is the real solid in my poetry?

[I debate this in my mind and, due to the question being thrown on me so quickly and unexpectedly, find myself more trying to dodge the question than think deeply on it. I’m discovering I don’t like being interviewed, myself. In the end, I slowly lift my head and look at him.]

RS: Um, is it this?

[I make the honking, flatulent noise he seems so fond of. Whitman beams with a sparkle in his right eye.]

RS: Hurrah?

WW (proud): Hurrah, indeed.

[Then he stands, gives me a strong, bracing pat against my shoulder, and begins fiddling with his microphone.]

RS: That noise must be pretty special to you.

WW (smiling): I think we’re done here.

[The microphone now removed, he nods at me and his eyes disappear into that other realm for which he seemed to visit earlier. Possibly an estranged nostalgia, or a happy place.]

RS: Well, I guess... thanks for letting me in on your special sound. Uh, and for the interview.

[Walt Whitman winks at me then, concluding the interview.]

Friday, March 9, 2007

Dante Alighieri

For the first interview of this blog, I decided to aim high and attempt to channel one of the greatest poets of the western tradition, and one of its highest innovaters, Dante Alighieri. Unfortunately, the interview did not go far. Dante, when I found him and channeled him into my writing study, was both difficult and unruly, and seemed more interested in shrugging off my questions than answering them. He seemed to have a a touch of knowledge regarding modern times, especially slang, but then seemed to know very little about our culture or even the state of poetry in this time of ours. What follows is the transcript of my interview with Dante. His responses were in an older Italian vernacular, with a few English terms thrown in from time to time, and I used several translators to get as exact a translation as possible for my reprinting here.

RS: What was your general mindset, being forced to live in exile from Florence, your home, during the initial stages of the Comedy?

DA: No, no, you don’t understand. I didn’t— uh, wait... what is that?

[Distracted, Dante has shifted gears, and leaves the question unanswered. I follow Dante’s stare, which seems to end with an object on my writing desk.]

RS: That? A stapler. They’re used to affix pages of a document, so they stay together. So, what was your mindset when—

DA (interrupting): I refer to the book next to it.

RS: Oh, the book... it’s poetry. Some stuff by Yusef Komunyakaa. I just finished it.

DA: A book written by a moor? Fah. I know of Africa. I can’t imagine what ‘stuff’ such a book could exhibit.

[This statement catches me so off guard that I don’t know how to respond for a moment.]

RS: Uh... if by 'moor' you mean a black person, then yes. He’s black.

[Dante then lets out a curt snort and rolls his eyes.]

DA: And what did you think of ‘moorish verse’, then?

RS: I liked the book, but listen: You should know that the current state of our world is that all men are created equal, to quote a well-known phrase. These times aren’t nearly so racist as the time in which you lived. Here, the color of skin doesn’t dictate much of anything but just that. Yusef is a professor and academic, as well as a war veteran.

DA: Anyone can be an academic, or a war veteran for that matter. You just have to live through something.

RS: I don’t think we’re making much progress with this interview. I really think we should get back to the questions.

[Dante then notices a poster of Li Young Lee on the wall of my library and chuckles.]

DA: Well, there’s progress for you. Moorish verse and Asian intellect. God save you.

RS: Okay, I’m trying to be objective about this, but you’re kind of offending me. Also, no one says ‘moor’ anymore. Can we keep to the questions I prepared?

DA (sighing): Oh, ask.

RS: Thank you. Now, history shows you had a long-time friendship with fellow writer Guido Cavalcanti, a poet of much skill. How do you feel your own writing was affected by this friendship?

DA: Oh hell. Interview Guido if you like him so much.

RS: Then is history wrong in assuming the two of you were close?

DA: Close? He was always around, to some extent, but I wouldn’t say we spent a lot of time together. It was more like an annual event, we meeting, and most to learn from Lacini, who was just on fire at times.

RS: Brunetto Lacini. You speak of Dolce Stil Novo *1.

DA: Yeah, but we didn’t call it that. It was me, Guido, Lapo Gianni, and Cino da Pistoia. And of course, Brunetto. We all discussed verse here and there, but more discussed Guelph matters, and of course, young women. As for Guido being a ‘poet of much skill’, I can’t agree. Guido was a master of one thing, and that one thing only: What you in your vernacular would call ‘cock-blocking’.

(Interviewers note: Dante states ‘cock-blocking’ in English.)

RS: Are you being serious?

DA: I’d be talking to a nice, mellow girl, you know, of substance and good breeding, just talking, and then Guido would saunter over in a puffed-up manner, really trying to show off his large arms and all that, and he’d start picking at me, or any other man, to try and get the girl’s favor. He’d even do it when you were talking with your own wife. It was annoying, but I still met with him from time to time because I thought he understood my fervor for a particular girl in town, Beatrice. You know, he was a sort of confidant, I suppose. He knew about me and was always curious to know more. But more a confidant than than a friend.

RS: The girl you refer to is Beatrice Portinari.

DA: Totally. I focused my Vita Nuova on her, or really, around her. That was the largest portion of our relationship, the ever-hanging favor I had for her, but never really moved on. When she died, it hurtled me out of my body for some time. I didn’t know what to do, so I descended into study. Kept myself occupied.

RS: How did Guido feel about your unfulfilled attraction to Beatrice?

DA: Oh, he thought it was great. You know, muses and all. We were sort of new to it all. But Guido and I stopped getting along after awhile. I got pretty heated one night because of his habit of using metaphors about smallness whenever he spoke of or about me, and it just started to agitate me. I got really angry when he asked if I had begun a new enorme piccolo book, which was his way of saying my work was large but of little consequence. I challenged him to a fight, but he wouldn’t consent because we were drunk. It’s just as well, because he was much larger than me, anyway. I was just tired of everything. The politics of Florence at the time, where I lived, were simply twisting this way and that, and there was going to be trouble. It was a phase, and I was in one too.

RS: Beatrice was married for the majority of your knowing her. Did you feel odd about having such strong feelings for a married woman?

DA: No. I was married, too. Had a handful of kids. That’s why I never acted on anything. But so what? I liked her anyway. So, she was yoked. Big deal. You’ve never been attracted to a woman that was married?

RS: ‘Yoked’... That’s interesting parlance.

DA (whiny): Blah. That’s interesting parlance.

[It seems my interviewee has adopted a whiny voice and is now mimicking me, in the manner of a playground juvenile.]

RS: Let’s get back to your Comedy.

DA (acting as if he is mentally challenged): Let’s get back to your Comedy.

RS: Man, I can’t conduct this interview if you don’t cooperate with me.

DA (snotty): Man, I can’t conduct the bleh bleah bleah stupid ass blah blah with me.

RS: ...

DA: ...

RS: Are you finished?

DA: You’re boring me. Get on with it. This room smells.

RS: Okay, back to the Comedy.

DA: It’s not funny in your sense of the word ‘Comedy’.

RS: Yes, I know.

DA: And I didn’t write it, either.

RS: ...What?

DA: I didn’t write The Divine Comedy.

RS: Wait... I don’t understand.

DA: Beatrice wrote it. I let her use me as the main.

RS: You’re telling me that you, Dante, did not write The Divine Comedy of Dante?

DA: I’d never write something like that. It was so full of itself and just loooooooooooooong.

RS: You do realize that the last near-thousand years of history has you pegged as the author of Dante’s Divine Comedy, right?

DA: Yeah, I’m not an idiot. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. Beatrice was really vain, see. Oh, she was amazing-looking, yes, but definitely full of herself. Just like her Divine Comedy of mine. Want to know something weird? She wanted me to ‘stalk’ her, you know? Call to her in alleys and that sort of low thing. But I wasn’t into it. It was weird. Especially in the 1200s. Like I said, I had my own family by then. I mean, creeping around behind some pretty girl, in those days... well, you could get a sword in the gut for that one, especially once the Black Guelphs started gaining power.

RS: Listen, I think you’re making this up. You are the author of The Divine Comedy. You have to be. And you already told me you were into Beatrice Portinari, so your statement that Beatrice wanted you to stalk her makes no sense. There’s truckloads of history that contradict you, here.

DA: Whatever you say. I sense you’re the sort of man who believes what he reads, yet reads low.

RS: I don’t know by what standard you use the term ‘low’.

DA: Maybe you comprise a self-absorbed and simple ignorance, like that of, say, a half-dead cow?

RS: All right. Out.

DA: Hmm?

RS: Get out. We’re done.

DA: Just as well. You’re a primitive, if you ask me.

RS: I’m not asking you anything. I’m telling you to get out.

DA: Or maybe just a savage. You probably became one from a saturation of ‘created-equal’ verse.


[Dante stands and stretches, slowly, as if he in no way is bothered by my terminating the interview or yelling at him. When I ask for my microphone back, he removes it and throws it over by my window, mutters ‘Andare a letto con animali*2’, and slowly makes his way out of my room and house. Once he reaches my driveway, he simply vanishes back into the ether, having walked too far away for me to maintain the psycho-physical link.]

*1: Translated – ‘The Sweet, New Style’
*2: Translated - ‘Go and sleep with animals’.