They paved paradise

I’m delving into Kinsella’s Divine Comedy and came across a particularly affecting passage about the raping of the landscape by development. Of course, who am I to talk? I live in the South Loop where the new condo buildings rise like weeds. I’m proud to live in “vintage,” but I certainly benefit from the gentrification. New residents mean more restaurants and shops and services. And a fancy new gym where I do yoga. And yet… my conscience pricks me. Here’s a quote from the “Canto of the Forest and Hill.”

we see the city overlit with intensive
housing, the last blocks of bushland

cleared away to placate the hunger
for the Australian Dream. The resources
feeding realtors who scourge

and flay all that lives outside
the human. And the human
when it stands in their way.

As I make my way through the cantos, the parallels to Dante are often obvious, but often not. An example of the former is these stanzas that reference Dante’s three animals in the dark woods – the leopard, the lion and the she-wolf – which prevent Dante from retreating. In fact, they force him farther into the woods and toward the entryway to hell. From the same canto:

their eyes glow behind designer
glasses. They dress as leopards,
wolves and greyhounds,

which they own and race
on Fridays at the track.

I guess if the developers are spending so much time at the track, they need to keep bulldozing the land to recoup their losses – ergo, farther into hell.

If you’re interested in reading more about the symbolism of the three animals, check out the Dante Worlds website at the University of Texas at Austin: Cantos 1-2. There are fantastic illustrations, audio of the poem, and great maps of hell. Choose your circle!

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