Into the Dark Forest – Transreading Dante’s Divine Comedy

Into the Dark Forest – Transreading Dante’s Divine Comedy

Enter the dark forest to find inspiration in the mesmerising world of Dante’s Divine Comedy, as we experiment with light and darkness, love and free will, journeys and destinations.

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.


Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto I

In this course we will create poetry inspired by the incredibly rich and complex world of Dante Alighieri’s medieval masterpiece. During the course, we will be reading key episodes from the Divine Comedy’s three sections – Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso – following Dante’s journey from the dark wood through the descending circles of Hell (Inferno) via the island mountain of Purgatory, to the threshold and spheres of Paradise. We will meet countless characters along the way, and like Dante, we will be guided in these complex, fascinating worlds by the poet Virgil and the love of Beatrice.

Each session will focus on one or two key Cantos, taking them as starting points in our own individual creative process. Dante’s work has inspired generations of artists and writers, and we will look at the way different artworks were created in dialogue with the Divine Comedy.

Finally, as the Divine Comedy is one of the defining masterpieces of the Italian language, each session will compare small sections of the original text with different translations. No previous knowledge of Italian is required, although if you know even a bit of Italian, you’d be surprised to see how much the Divine Comedy’s language is close to the Italian spoken today! The students will read a translation of their own choice and will be introduced to several translations during the course, including those of Seamus Heaney, Mary Jo Bang, Robert Pinsky, and W.S Merwin.

Transreading courses – co-curated with Elzbieta Wójcik-Leese – invite us to read poems brought to English by translation, English-language poems inhabiting other cultures, and multilingual poems whose English hosts other tongues. We translate texts and/or compose new poems in response to our readings; in this process of trans-reading and trans-writing we open our poetries to the multi-literate world.

To apply for a concession rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here.

If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

Image credit: Zoya Loonohod

About Stav Poleg View Profile

Stav Poleg’s poetry has been published on both sides of the Atlantic, including in The New Yorker, Poetry London and Poetry Ireland Review. A selection of her work is featured in Carcanet’s New Poetries VIII. She regularly collaborates with fellow artists and poets. Her graphic-novel installation Dear Penelope: Variations on an August Morning, created with artist Laura Gressani, was acquired by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. She serves on the editorial board of Magma Poetry, and has recently facilitated collaborative work between poets and filmmakers for the magazine. Her theatre work was read at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh and the Shunt Vaults, London, and most recently at Kettle’s Yard gallery, Cambridge

‘Poetry School has certainly changed my life. I feel I am a member of a community of poets. The quality of feedbacks, both from the tutors and fellow students have been very high and helpful. Really love the website. The choice of courses offered is magnificent. I have attended 9 courses so far and aim to be a perpetual returning student.’

– Spring 2021 survey response

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