Dante, and Why I Write

...i first encountered Dante's Inferno in high school...it was the edited version, meaning that everything was missing except Dante's initial conversation with Virgil and purgatory...even in Southern California, burning monks were taboo...so it wasn't until UCI that i revisited hell, this time with Dr. James Chiampi, a small, red-haired man who read to us in Italian and was so passionate about The Divine Comedy he'd pace the empty spaces of our tiny, windowless classroom and say, "Speak to me about Canto _____," then point to one of the ten English majors in the room and expect an intelligent response...he often called me ms. welch...who could blame him, really? my best pal in college looked nearly identical to me--she was about four feet tall, with curly dark hair, wore overalls and docs...yep, that was pretty much me (without the vertical challenge, and the dark hair, and the docs)...plus, we sat next to each other and both had last names beginning with "w"...so...yeah...it was in the cramped confines of that room i first encountered the wood of suicides...their fate: to be eternally bound in the form of thorny trees and  descended upon by razor-taloned harpies...the only time they could speak, or emit a sigh of pain, was through the holes pecked by the birds...

...for me, the image of these souls is the metaphor for writing--if the words don't cut, if the subject is painless, the project will fail...i tell my students, "if you aren't hurting by the end of a draft, you're doing something wrong"

...writing is an act of sacrifice...what more can i give than blood...

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