Alfred North Whitehead once said that all European philosophical tradition basically consists of is footnotes to Plato. The poems in Franz Josef Czernin’s new volume are by no means footnotes but adaptations and appropriations of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Dante’s Heaven and Hell are as central and definitive to the European tradition of the visionary poem as Plato is to European philosophy. Czernin makes this clear by the chronology of his poems and the way they transgress heavenly and infernal borders, correlating them, unleashing them on each other before letting them merge and fuse into a single entity. Augmented by the majesty of the great English poets, the perhaps initially alienating linguistic dichotomy of these verses is inspiring, their seraphic duality of expression at once uplifting and disturbing: the fragmented language leaves us with a vision of veracities that poetry alone can engender.