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Purgatory and the wonders (and pains) of technology

After the excitement of having my site invaded last week, and the subsequent tsunami of ‘new posts’ about ‘how to make a salad’ or ‘best value beanies’ etc (could have been a lot worse I suppose), I thought I ought to write a genuine post if nothing else to check whether I still have any readers. (If you’re reading this then I guess you’re still with me – thank you for you good humour and understanding.)

On Sunday I had hoped to watch the T S Eliot prize readings ‘live’ but was thwarted by some ill-configured viewing platform that had hundreds of us locked out for the first half hour. After several attempts, and having to watch a 90 second ad for the Southbank Centre four times, I gave up and decided to rescue what was left of the evening. I haven’t yet read the prize winning collection by Bhanu Kapil but I look forward to so doing.

A bit of a shame about the livestream fiasco, as I was in the mood for the TS Eliots – I’m currently reading Selling and Self-Regulation of Contemporary Poetry by JT Welsch which has some fascinating insights regarding ‘prize culture’ and ‘debut fever’. The book itself is a tad expensive to buy (I only have access to a PDF) but Billy Mills has written an excellent review here, if you’re interested.

More excitement : last week I interviewed Mary Jean Chan for Planet Poetry and it should be going live next Thursday for Episode 8 – I can warmly recommend Mary Jean’s collection Flèche (Faber, 2019), and she was lovely to interview.  There are yet more excellent poets coming up on the podcast, so do subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Last Monday Nick and I attended Live Canon’s Burns Night event – it was great fun seeing people having their Burns Supper on Zoom, hearing Burns poetry read by Live Canon’s brilliant ensemble, and trying to follow the official proceedings of toasts and incantations… hilarious, innovative and oddly quite moving too.

I’m currently enjoying my second journey into Purgatorio, this time with the help and enlightenment provided by the University of York. A whole term of Dante is pure luxury, and a real solace in these grim days. Purgatory is actually a much nicer place than many people imagine, and there are some lovely images to be found, which help a reader orient themselves… like this one! I’ve no idea where to give credit for this, as it seems to be all over the web…

Diagram of Purgatory

As you can see, it’s quite a climb. I’m currently on the 2nd terrace, among the Invidiosi (the envious) – feeling quite at home, actually!

Meanwhile, it’s coming up to the end of January (O GIVE THANKS), so in the next day or so I’ll be shooting off an email to remind people about poetry magazines with submissions windows about to close or open. If you’re not on the list, you know what to do! 

Take care, and hold on, we’ll get there soon. XX

Published inBlogBooksCoursesEventsLockdownPodcastYork MA


  1. Billy Mills Billy Mills

    Thanks for linking to the review. It’s a fine book, essential reading really.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Billy, you’re welcome, I agree it’s an excellent book.

  2. I’m still reading, Robin! Nice blog post as always.

    Sorry you had the blog invasion. Very disconcerting for you. I was interested to note that all of the spam notifications went straight into my trash file so I wasn’t too troubled by them. They did read a bit like techno-bot poetry!

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Deborah, maybe being targeted by the bots is a form of flattery (!), or at least, I’m happy to tell myself that!

  3. Cheryl Capaldo Traylor Cheryl Capaldo Traylor

    Robin, the day you were hacked, I was in physical therapy and my phone lit up with each alert from your email. At first, I was impressed. I thought wow! She’s being productive. After the 5th or 6th, I knew something was amiss! Oh well. These things happen. I’m sorry it happened to you. And Dante! I am among those who cherish and reread his works—sometimes in bits and pieces. There’s so much history and information. I get lost down Google rabbit trails when I read The Divine Comedy. Hanging in there in the US. Take care.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Cheryl, oh dear, I’m sorry to have disturbed your physio !
      I think you’re absolutely right about the Comedy being so rich in information and history, I find I have to stop myself trying to unpick everything as I go along, or else it would take me as long to read it as it did for him to write it! X

  4. Mrs Gene Groves Mrs Gene Groves

    Robin, in 2019 on holiday in Tuscany I was thrilled to visit Dante’s House Museum in Florence. I remember seeing images of Purgatory like this in the rooms. I have just checked the museum site and it is giving virtual tours. I will revisit it virtually now!

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Gene, and thanks for commenting – I’ve not been to the Dante house museum. Actually I’ve boycotted Florence for some years now (it was feeling so tourist-unfriendly and exploitative). I think a virtual tour sounds excellent!

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