Virtual: Mary Jo Bang, Purgatorio and Maria Dahvana Headley, Beowulf

Join Porter Square Books for a virtual talk with Mary Jo Bang, author of the new translation Purgatorio, and Maria Dahvana Headley (Beowulf: A New Translation)! These new translations have been described as "meaty, luscious, erudite, straight-talking, and joyful" (Susan Susan Bernofsky on Purgatorio) and "electrifying . . . brash and belligerent, lunatic and invigorating" (The New Yorker on Beowulf) and we're thrilled to have these brilliant translators together on one screen to tell us more. This event is free and open to all, hosted virtually via Crowdcast.

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Award-winning poet Mary Jo Bang’s exhilarating, innovative new translation of Purgatorio is the extraordinary continuation of her journey with Dante, which began with her transformative version of Inferno. In Purgatorio, still guided by the Roman poet Virgil, Dante emerges from the horrors of Hell to begin the climb up Mount Purgatory, a seven-terrace mountain with each level devoted to those atoning for one of the seven deadly sins. At the summit, we find the Terrestrial Heaven and Beatrice—who will take over for Virgil, who, as a pagan, can only take Dante so far. During the climb, we are introduced to the myriad ways in which humans destroy the social fabric through pride, envy, and vindictive anger.

In her signature lyric style, accompanied by her wise and exuberant notes, Bang has produced a stunning translation of this fourteenth-century text, rich with references that span time, languages, and cultures. The contemporary allusions echo the audacious character of the original, and slyly insist that whatever was true in Dante’s era is still true. Usain Bolt, Tootsie Fruit Chews, the MGM logo, Leo the Lion, Amy Winehouse, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, and Gertrude Stein are among those who make cameo appearances as Bang, with eloquence and daring, shepherds The Divine Comedy into the twenty-first century.

Nearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf—and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world—Maria Dahvana Headley's radical new verse translation of the epic poem brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, recontextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes into a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us. The familiar elements of the epic poem are seen with a novelist’s eye toward gender, genre, and history—Beowulf has always been a tale of entitlement and encroachment, powerful men seeking to become more powerful, and one woman seeking justice for her child, but this version brings new context to an old story. While crafting her contemporary adaptation of Beowulf, Headley unearthed significant shifts lost over centuries of translation. Amond many other accolades, it is a Porter Square Books staff favorite!

Mary Jo Bang has published eight poetry collections, including A Doll for Throwing and Elegy, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and new translations of Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio. She teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis.

Maria Dahvana Headley is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author and editor. Her novels include MagoniaAerie, and Queen of Kings, and she has also written a memoir, The Year of Yes. With Kat Howard, she is the author of The End of the Sentence, and with Neil Gaiman, she is co-editor of Unnatural Creatures. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, and her work has been supported by the MacDowell Colony and by Arte Studio Ginestrelle, where the first draft of The Mere Wife was written. She was raised with a wolf and a pack of sled dogs in the high desert of rural Idaho, and now lives in Brooklyn.

Click here to register for the event on Crowdcast:

Event date: 

Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 7:00pm

Event address: 

Virtual via Crowdcast
Purgatorio By Mary Jo Bang (Translated by), Dante Alighieri Cover Image
By Mary Jo Bang (Translated by), Dante Alighieri
ISBN: 9781644450574
Availability: Available with a Delay: On Order at Supplier: Email for More Info
Published: Graywolf Press - July 13th, 2021

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Beowulf: A New Translation By Maria Dahvana Headley Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374110031
Availability: In Stock: Click Title to See if it's in CAMBRIDGE or BOSTON
Published: MCD x FSG Originals - August 25th, 2020