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CH Sisson translating Dante’s Purgatorio

I used to think highly of Sisson’s poetry; I can remember being excited when Anchises and Exactions came out in the late seventies. I don’t know how I’d find his own poems if I read them again now, but I’ve just read his translation of Dante’s Purgatorio and was deeply disappointed. I did it because I wanted a more continuous reading process than you can get from the John Sinclair parallel text, which involves constant movement between the languages and interruption by the pages of commentary after each canto. What startled me in Sisson’s version was how heavily the line … Continue Reading

Elizabeth Bishop, “The Armadillo”

You can link to the poem here:


I’ve never been quite satisfied with the ending of this poem. What a delight the rest is though! Throughout, there’s an extraordinary sensitivity of movement. Take the way the first two stanzas expand and contract metrically. This surely echoes the expansion and contraction of the beating heart, subliminally embedding a feeling of the heart’s life in the very texture of the verse even before the heart itself is mentioned. Even more, though, it suggests the pulsations of feeling and thought, the swelling of enthusiasm, the hesitations of doubt and discouragement . The swelling … Continue Reading