The poem was written, the "Divine Comedy," after he was exiled from Florence in 1302. And Dante spent basically the last 20 years of his life wandering up and down Italy, looking for a home, feeling the pain of having lost Florence in a visceral way. And that image of exile from what had been my own life, Dante's words spoke to me. They captured better than anything else the way I felt about what had happened. It was as though I'd fallen through a trap door from the life that I had into one that, you know, I didn't want and was desperate to get that former life back. So the dark wood started out to mean something very personal, that moment of the great crisis in a way that defines your life as Dante wrote about it.
I talk about that immediate feeling of grief in the kind of shock and fog that you go into to kind of help you survive something - a sudden death like that. And I realized by the end of that year with carrying that feeling, that it had somehow heightened everything around me, that my whole life was seen through this perspective of grief, that my suffering was so intense - almost as though it was like living in a charged atmosphere. And for me, it created this sort of inwardness that the grief became a kind of prison that became very hard to get out of. You know, at one point, I finally stepped out. And the air was no longer electric. And it felt, at that point, that grief had ended and that I could begin the work of mourning.
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