“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 Roman Empire reached its greatest height 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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“The Personal City” by Dino Buzzati (A Translation)

(Here is my translation of a short story –or is it a kind of prose poem?– by the Italian author Dino Buzzati (1906-1972). It is a piece I find very poignant, and not just because I also used to have a black standard poodle.)

The Personal City

by Dino Buzzati

From this city that none of you know, I send out reports, but they are never enough. Each one of you, perhaps, knows or visits other towns; and yet, no one will ever be able to live in this city of which I speak of except me. And therein lies the only indisputable interest of my dispatches: For the fact is that this city exists, and there is only one person who can provide any precise information about it. Nor is it possible for people to honestly say, “Who cares?” The fact that something exists is reason enough for the world to have to take note of it, howsoever small a thing it may be. And in this case we are talking about a whole city, a big city, a huge city, with old neighbourhoods and new ones, an endless labyrinth of streets, monuments and ruins, whose origins are lost in the dawn of history, cathedrals laden with intricate filigree carvings, parks (And at dusk the looming woodpeckers cast their shadows over the squares where the children used to play). A place where every stone, every window, every shop stands for a memory, an emotion, a life-defining moment!

The trick, of course, is to know how to describe things. For there are thousands of cities like mine throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of them; and quite often, I will admit, these urban agglomerations are inhabited by only one person, as is the case for me personally, as I mentioned. Generally speaking, though, it is as if these cities didn’t exist. How many people are there out there who are able to provide us with any satisfactory information about them? Very few. Most have no inkling of the secrets they are party to, nor would it ever occur to them to try to communicate them. Or perhaps they send out long letters packed with adjectives, but when one has finished reading them, for the most part, one is left as much in the dark as before.

But with me it’s different. Forgive me if this comes across as ridiculous boasting. It isn’t much, it’s almost nothing, but every so often, with great effort, I admit, I am able to convey an impression, however uncertain and vague, of the city which fate has assigned to me. Every once in a while, amid the many messages of mine that are not even read through to the end, there is one of them that makes itself heard. And so it happens that, out of curiosity, small groups of tourists will show up at the city gates, and I am called upon to show them around, and to answer their questions.

But how difficult it is to satisfy them. We seem to be speaking different languages. We end up having to communicate through gestures and smiles. What’s more, they are above all interested in the innermost neighbourhoods, where I can’t possibly take them: It’s completely out of the question. I myself don’t have the courage to explore that winding network of buildings, houses and hovels (the abodes of angels, or of demons?).

For this reason, I usually take these kind visitors to see the more conventional sights, the city hall, the cathedral, the Croppi Museum (that’s just what it’s called), etc., which, truth be told, are of no special interest. Hence their disappointment.

Among the members of these eager tour groups there is almost always a bureaucrat, a lawman, a superintendent, an inspector, an economist, a commissioner or something of that sort, at the very least a deputy commissioner. This person will say to me something like this: Continue reading

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From The Look in Her Eyes, I Knew – A Villanelle

From The Look in Her Eyes, I Knew – A Villanelle

From the look in her eyes, I knew
She was riding to meet a guy.
But is any of this even true?
There’s no end to what I’ll construe
From a face as it flashes by.
From the look in her eyes, I knew,
Though (her flushed cheeks were another clue),
Love was pedaling in her thigh…
But is any of this even true?
Is it not just the the thought of two
Now apart? I would nearly die
From the look in her eyes I knew
Then, when she knew it too
In the pull of my disrobed eye…
But is any of this even true?
And now, is it mere fancy to
Divine she too soon will cry
From the look in her eyes I knew?
But is any of this even true?

(I’m not a poet, but I like word games. A villanelle is a fixed verse poetic form of nineteen lines with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets and a quatrain, with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain.)

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Creative Workshop and Panel Discussion at the FBDM!

The 6th edition of the Festival BD de Montréal Comics Arts Festival begins today and continues through to Sunday. I will be present with a booth on Saturday only, 10:00-17:30 at which time I’ll be selling some zines and prints from my poetry comics, as well as displaying some art work from my ongoing graphic novel about the Battle of The Plains of Abraham. Also, between 11:00-11:45 I’ll be leading a workshop on adapting poetry or song lyrics into comics, and between 13:00-13:45 I’ll be taking part in a round table discussion on the theme of “Telling a story” alongside Nina Bunjevac and Joe Ollman, animated by the Gazette’s Ian McGillis. The festival takes place in the idyllic outdoor setting of La Fontaine Park. Workshop, panel discussion and all events are free and open to all. Hope to see you there! Click here for more info about the festival and the complete programming: http://www.fbdm-montreal.ca/programmation/programmation-2017/

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