Dispatch 3.3—Eugenia Leigh, Elizabeth Metzger, Rowan Ricardo Phillips translates Dante Alighieri, & art from Elia Mauceri
Janine Joseph
Editor's Reflection: Word and World

A few weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C., attending readings and panels, and touring the book fair of the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference. The capital was promised snow in the days approaching, but the 2017 conference-goers were gifted (slightly) warmer weather, which made being outside—whether it was to walk with friends to a restaurant or to demonstrate at the White House—imperative.

It was my ninth conference since first attending in 2008, and, in my experience, the most politically attuned. In addition to participating in the usual fare, writers from across the country visited their various representatives, took part in restorative write-a-thons, attended a Candlelight Vigil for Freedom of Expression, and even formed a human wall across the conference book fair in a “unified opposition” against “the human rights violations of the current administration.”

As I introduce the work in Dispatch 3.3, I am remembering the exact moment I heard the chant, “No ban / No wall / Sanctuary for all,” repeated by those who linked arms for fifteen minutes in a “visual demonstration.” I am remembering the moment I looped my arm through another’s to join them, realizing in that instant that I had found a place right next to an old friend—one who I was meeting in person for the very first time. I am remembering the surprised and welcome look we gave as we recognized each other from our social media and author photos. It was, in that moment, in the midst of the conference grounds, exactly where I needed to be.

This weekend, the Facebook “On This Day” feature reminded me that Issue Two of Tongue was released four whole years ago. Exactly a month into our relaunch of the journal as an online literary project, I am remembering fellow editor Mrigaa Sethi’s opening words for Dispatch 3.1: “What a strange time it is to be relaunching Tongue…”

I am remembering now Mark Doty’s words about “the fusion of the word and the world” in The Art of Description and how “when words are tuned to their highest ability…it is possible to feel, at least for a moment, language clicking into place, into a relation with the world that feels seamless and inevitable."

Readers, I hope wherever you are, these works of image and text, of translator and translation, of city and seraphim, and of fire and first word find you and welcome you back into a world you can recognize.

жизнь - Elia Mauceri
Eugenia Leigh
The Burning Ones

The seraphim hovering over the city
thunder holy holy holy.
They moan and moan

that lone word—a prayer
strangled in their sober throats. We hoist
umbrellas to joust their sobs

flushing from above like crushed stars.
We ignore that gold chord

and droning. We know nothing
of glory. The sky, to the polluted eye,
black as asphalt.

Dasha - Elia Mauceri
Rowan Ricardo Phillips
From Paradiso, V: 85-139
—a translation from the Italian

Just as I write this, thus did Beatrice speak;
Then, desire-brimmed, she turned
To that part of the sky that brightest shines.

Her sudden muteness and mutable semblance
Imposed a silence on my mind already
Eager with new questions formed just in advance;

And as the swift-shaft sinks into its mark
Before the bowstring has time to calm,
So did we speed into the Second Heaven.

I saw my woman there, so joyous
As she rose into that realm’s radiance,
Making the planet still more radiant.

And if the star itself then changed and smiled,
What then did I, who by my nature alters
With each and every changing form, become?

As when fish, in a still and clear fishpond, draw
Near anything that falls to them from the surface
In a way that makes them think what falls their food,

So did I see more than a thousand splendors
Draw near us, and in each of them was heard:
“Lo and behold, one who will augment our loves!”

And as these splendors approached us
Each shade beamed contentedly
From the bright beams it cast out.

Think, reader, of what is here just beginning
Not proceeding any farther, how keen
Then your need to know more, anguished, would be;

And you shall see for yourself, as they
Appeared before my very eyes, how I desired
To hear from them, there and then, about their state.

“O blessed soul, onto whom Grace concedes,
Prior to your exiting the battlefield,
Sight of the throne of the Eternal Triumph,
We are alight with the fire that fills
The entire span of Heaven; and so, if
You would like us to enlighten you, just say,”

Said one of those holy spirits to me.
And then Beatrice: “Speak, speak
Sure of yourself, believe in them as though gods.”

“I see clearly how you nest in your own light.
And, from the way they glimmer when you smile,
That you draw this light from your eyes.

“But what I don’t know is who you are, nor why,
Worthy soul, you are stationed in the sphere
That veils itself from mortals in another

Sphere’s rays.” I said this as I stood facing the light
That first had talked to me; which then became
Even more luminous than it had been before.

And, as the sun conceals itself in an excess
Of its own light, when its heat has worn away
All thick and tempering mists,

So, with growing gladness, did that sainted figure
Hide himself from me within his rays;
And, thus enclosed, enclosed his response

In the style that the next song sings.

Dopo la notte - Elia Mauceri
Dante Alighieri
From Paradiso, V: 85-139

Così Beatrice a me com' ïo scrivo; 
poi si rivolse tutta disïante 
a quella parte ove 'l mondo è più vivo.

Lo suo tacere e 'l trasmutar sembiante 
puoser silenzio al mio cupido ingegno, 
che già nuove questioni avea davante;

e sì come saetta che nel segno 
percuote pria che sia la corda queta, 
così corremmo nel secondo regno.

Quivi la donna mia vid' io sì lieta, 
come nel lume di quel ciel si mise, 
che più lucente se ne fé 'l pianeta.

E se la stella si cambiò e rise, 
qual mi fec' io che pur da mia natura 
trasmutabile son per tutte guise!

Come 'n peschiera ch'è tranquilla e pura 
traggonsi i pesci a ciò che vien di fori 
per modo che lo stimin lor pastura,

sì vid' io ben più di mille splendori 
trarsi ver' noi, e in ciascun s'udia: 
«Ecco chi crescerà li nostri amori».

E sì come ciascuno a noi venìa, 
vedeasi l'ombra piena di letizia 
nel folgór chiaro che di lei uscia.

Pensa, lettor, se quel che qui s'inizia 
non procedesse, come tu avresti 
di più savere angosciosa carizia;

e per te vederai come da questi 
m'era in disio d'udir lor condizioni, 
sì come a li occhi mi fur manifesti.

«O bene nato a cui veder li troni 
del trïunfo etternal concede grazia 
prima che la milizia s'abbandoni,

del lume che per tutto il ciel si spazia 
noi semo accesi; e però, se disii 
di noi chiarirti, a tuo piacer ti sazia».

Così da un di quelli spirti pii 
detto mi fu; e da Beatrice: «Dì, dì 
sicuramente, e credi come a dii».

«Io veggio ben sì come tu t'annidi 
nel proprio lume, e che de li occhi il traggi, 
perch' e' corusca sì come tu ridi;

ma non so chi tu se', né perché aggi, 
anima degna, il grado de la spera 
che si vela a' mortai con altrui raggi».

Questo diss' io diritto a la lumera 
che pria m'avea parlato; ond' ella fessi 
lucente più assai di quel ch'ell' era.

Sì come il sol che si cela elli stessi 
per troppa luce, come 'l caldo ha róse 
le temperanze d'i vapori spessi,

per più letizia sì mi si nascose 
dentro al suo raggio la figura santa; 
e così chiusa chiusa mi rispuose

nel modo che 'l seguente canto canta.

volk - Elia Mauceri
Elizabeth Metzger

To this human, 
fire was the first word 
for out of mind

Flame before flower. Burn. 
Early bird, Burn. 

Self of reason, wanted 
wingless self, Love-
I-refuse-to-call-love self.

For every field, there is a god 
I don’t believe in, 
gravity, ridiculous as any heaven.

What maddened 
me to making
I burn alive.

About our contributors

Eugenia Leigh is the author of Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows (Four Way Books), the winner of the 2015 Debut-litzer Prize in Poetry. The recipient of fellowships and awards from Poets & Writers Magazine, Kundiman, The Frost Place, Rattle, and the Asian American Literary Review, she received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and serves as the Poetry Editor of Hyphen.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of two volumes of poetry: The Ground (2012) and Heaven (2015), both published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, as well as the critical volume When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness (2010). He translated, from the Catalan, Salvador Espriu's story collection Ariadne in the Grotesque Labyrinth (2012). He is the recipient of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for Poetry, a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry.

Dante Alighieri’s (1265–1321) epic allegorical poem Commedia later renamed La Divina Commedia, is among the most significant works of Western literature. Dante completed the poem’s three sections, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, early in the fourteenth century.

Elizabeth Metzger’s first collection, The Spirit Papers, won the 2016 Juniper Prize and will be published by University of Massachusetts Press in Winter 2017. Her poetry has recently appeared in The New Yorker, Best New Poets 2015, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She is the Poetry Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal.

Elia Mauceri was born in 1987, and lives and works between Florence and Dicomano. He graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze under the guidance of Professor Adriano Bimbi. A winner of numerous awards and competitions, Mauceri has been a part of major exhibitions across Italy.

To read more work from these writers, view hi-res versions of images, and see archived issues of Tongue: A Journal of Writing & Art, please visit »
Copyright © 2017 Tongue: A Journal of Writing & Art, All rights reserved.

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