“David Rigsbee, after over 20 books of poetry and criticism, has turned his mind upon Dante’s Divine Comedy. He chose what is widely considered as the most difficult of its three parts. Readers tend to find the best reading in Dante is about the worst sinners, and next best, the story of those climbing up Purgatory’s mountain. The Chinese fireworks of Dante’s heaven sometimes stun the modern reader. Reading Paradiso in Rigsbee’s free tetrameter triplets, creates a present-day experience of how literally mind-blowing the book is. If we didn’t have the Inferno and Purgatorio, it would remain as one of the greatest poems ever written.
The concept is bewildering to a modern reader, and to
Dante too. Beatrice turns to the dumbstruck poet and says, ‘Don’t you
know you are in Heaven?’ A lot happens in this heaven: the brightest
lights get ever brighter, speeds endlessly accelerate, geometries become
as intricate as a Swiss watch, and mirrors flash on mirrors—until all
experience is consummated in a fainting fit of supra-rationality.
Rigsbee’s new Paradiso brings us as close to a medieval heaven as we are
likely to get—a major achievement.”
David Rigsbee is the author of over twenty books and chapbooks, including twelve previous full- length collections of poems. In addition, he has published critical works on Carolyn Kizer and Joseph Brodsky, whom he also translated. He has co-edited two anthologies, including Invited Guest: An Anthology of Twentieth Century Southern Poetry, as well as a critical collection, Not Alone in My Dancing: Essays and Reviews . His work has appeared in AGNI , The American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The New Yorker, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review , and many others. He has received a Pushcart Prize, two creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a NEH summer fellowship to the American Academy in Rome. His other awards include a Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown fellowship, the Virginia Commission on the Arts literary fellowship, the Djerassi Foundation and Jentel Foundation residencies, and an Award from the Academy of American Poets. His Watchman in the Knife Factory: New and Selected Poems will be published in 2024. He lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.