“Elegy” by Leonard Cohen

A watercolour illustration inspired by “Elegy,” the opening poem in Leonard Cohen’s very first poetry collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, from 1956.Elegy

 

Elegy

Do not look for him
In brittle mountain streams:
They are too cold for any god;
And do not examine the angry rivers
For shreds of his soft body
Or turn the shore stones for his blood;
But in the warm salt ocean
He is descending through cliffs
Of slow green water
And the hovering coloured fish
Kiss his snow-bruised body
And build their secret nests
In his fluttering winding-sheet.

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“The World Is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth

My comics adaptation of William Wordsworth’s sonnet “The World Is Too Much With Us” (composed circa 1802), in which the Romantic poet decries the societal changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. This comic originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of the Italian poetry magazine Atelier, accompanied by an Italian translation by Francesca Benocci. This collaborative project was part of the exploratory “Partners in Rhyme” series, in which I adapted some short English-language poems into comics which Francesca would then translate into Italian in such a way as to take into account my accompanying illustrations: http://www.atelierpoesia.it/portal/it/atelierpoesia-it-mul/atelier-mul/item/515-atelier-84-il-nobel-e-sanremo
And here is a picture of yours truly at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere in the English Lake District, which I happened to visit this July.

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Renaissance Men

Along with the 1790s, the 1490s are probably my favourite decade in the history of male fashion.

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“To Hell and Back” Illustrations

To Hell and Back: An Anthology of Dante’s Inferno in English Translation was published a few days ago by John Benjamins (Amsterdam). Edited by  Tim Smith and Marco Sonzogni, the book runs through all 34 cantos of the Inferno twice, from I to XXXIV, and then in reverse order from XXXIV to I, with each of these resultant 68 cantos culled from a different English translation of Dante’s masterpiece, ranging in date from the late eighteenth century to the present: https://benjamins.com/#catalog/books/z.212/main

At the very centre of the book, between the two Canto XXXIVs, are two illustrations by yours truly, illustrating scenes from that final section:

In the last canto of Dante’s Inferno, the Florentine poet arrives at the center of the final circle of Hell, where he lays eyes on Lucifer himself. Here Hell has literally frozen over, and the Devil is described as encased up to his waist in ice. Lucifer has three faces, and in each of his mouths he chews on, but never quite finishes devouring, a notable sinner. The three devourees are Cassius, Brutus and Judas Iscariot, all guilty of the sin of treason towards a benefactor, which, evidently, is the greatest sin of all.

In Dante’s cosmology, Lucifer stands at the very center of the Earth, and for the first drawing I had in mind a conception of him as the gravitational center of all Evil, the point towards which all temptation is ultimately pulling. Or perhaps his mouths could be interpreted as a kind of triple black hole, swallowing up as much of the light of the Universe as they can.

The second drawing, which introduces the “flip” half of the anthology in which the cantos are presented in reverse order, depicts the moment after Dante and his guide Virgil have passed beyond the centre of gravity located at the level of Lucifer’s waist, and have set about climbing the Devil’s legs, which will eventually allow them to emerge from the underworld on the opposite end of the Earth from where the poet first entered it. To Hell and back.

 

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“Little Gidding” by T. S. Eliot

Here is my comics adaptation of an extract of the celebrated final section of T. S. Eliot’s poem “Little Gidding”, the last of his Four Quartets. This comic was commissioned by and originally appeared in the American magazine Plough Quarterly: http://www.plough.com/en

For a good contextualization of the adaptation on the Plough Quarterly website, click here: http://www.plough.com/en/topics/culture/poetry/little-gidding

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The Height of the Roman Empire

The greatest height of the Roman Empire was reached on the evening of August 12th, 121 C.E. in the seaside city of Brundisium, in the province of Italia. At this time, the retired centurion Gaius Sextius Baculus and his wife Popillia were dining at the home of another retired centurion, Lucius Siccius Fortunatus, and his wife Minervina. Although the two veterans had served together for twenty-five years in the 13th Legion Gemina, they had not laid eyes on each other in over a decade. Shortly after their participation in the Emperor Trajan’s conquest of Dacia in 106 C. E., the two had both taken their retirement from the army and each set up a farm on a parcel of land allotted to them in two different regions of the newly acquired territory. After a few years, however, Fortunatus had sold his farm and returned to his native city of Brundisium, where he had married Minervina, his widowed childhood sweetheart. Baculus, who was also originally from Brundisium –the main reason why the two soldiers of the 13th had first bonded as young recruits– had returned to the city only a month ago, after receiving an inheritance. He had not known that Fortunatus was also back in the city until two days prior to this little dinner party, when, after having finished settling into his home in the newly developed Vicus Argentoratum, he had paid a visit to a childhood friend, who had filled him in on this and countless other items –full decades’ worth– of local news and gossip.

Baculus had promptly gone to call on his erstwhile comrade in arms, who lived in an elegant house in the neighbourhood of the thermae. An immensely surprised Fortunatus greeted him with great emotion. In physical appearance the two men had changed a good deal: The hair on their heads was thin and grey, and they had grown rather stout. Still, aside from a bad knee on Fortunatus’s part that gave him a slight limp, they were both in remarkably good health for their age. Their gestures and facial expressions, furthermore, were just the same, and they were each glad to discover that the rapport with the other remained as effortless as it had always been. Fortunatus promptly invited Baculus and Popillia for a dinner to take place on the very next evening. Continue reading

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Profiles in Leadership – James Wolfe

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