“Seventh Circle is a boutique hot sauce brand focused on unique flavor combinations, natural ingredients, and small batch production. The name is derived from Dante’s Inferno. In this story, the seventh circle of hell is reserved for those who have committed violence. Hot sauce fiends could be seen as committing violence upon themselves. Through texture, color, and imagery I wanted to create a cohesive brand that represents it’s namesake and would be attractive to hot sauce aficionados. The first step in creating the brand was constructing a logo. The logo is the vehicle that drives a brand, and is part of all touch points. In exploring the logo, I wanted to create a mark that was easily recognizable and conveyed the brand’s messaging in a simple but clever way. The phrase ‘You reap what you sow’ stuck out in my mind, as the seventh circle of hell is for those who have committed violence, and in this case on themselves. I went with the scythe, and illustrated it to be in the shape of the number seven.” [. . .] —Jake Neece Design and Illustrations, 2019.
“I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’…” A reference to Pier delle Vigne, Inf. 13?
Contributed by Lorenzo Hess (Bowdoin, ’23)
“I wrote ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ [from Vuong’s 2016 collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds] shortly after hearing the news of two gay men being murdered by immolation in Dallas, TX. I originally wrote the poem in tercets, echoing Dante’s terza rima format. In the Inferno, the stanzas work as a network of rooms the speaker moves through as he descends through the circles of hell. In ‘Seventh Circle of Earth,’ however, this grouping felt off, even fraudulent, to me. A persona poem at its core, it takes on the voice of one of the men speaking to his partner. And in the midst of that fraught position, a poem in tercets, or, in other words, a ‘traditional’ poem, felt like a diluted, forced recasting of a horrific event. I ultimately abandoned the poem.
“It was not until three years later, while reading a critical work on violence and scholarship, did I see, more clearly, the footnotes on the bottom of the page. I found myself slipping right to the notes as I progressed, reading them first. They possessed, in that reading, an urgency that began to stitch itself into a fabric of broken utterances fused together by parataxis. It was, in a way, found poetry. That gave me the idea to re-work ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ into a piece written entirely in the footnote. This time, the vast and utter emptiness one confronts on the page felt more faithful to the violent erasure of the two murdered men. It felt right to begin the poem with its own vanishing.” [. . .] — Ocean Vuong on “Seventh Circle of Earth” for Poetry School
Read the rest of Vuong’s comments and the poem at poetryschool.com.
Contributed by Su Ertekin-Taner (The Bolles School ’22)
“I don’t want to be dramatic or anything, but sometimes, even the most mundane of chores becomes epic to me. Dante Alighieri may have been writing about Hell in his Inferno, but it seems just like dishwashing to me.
Every night after dinner, it goes something like this:
Limbo – Some people think dinner is over. Some people just finally sat down to eat 30 seconds ago. No one is actively clearing the table, but some dishes are in the sink.
[. . .]
Gluttony – So I ate the brownies and ice cream. And it became like the mud Virgil (Dante’s guide in the underworld, you’ll recall) fed to the three mouths of Cerberus.
[. . .]
Violence – A river of blood (how my hands feel right now) is where Dante finds those who are violent to their neighbor. Gnarled thorny trees (how my hands feel) are those who are violent to themselves. The great plain of burning sand (does anyone have any Bag Balm? I think the skin on my hands needs revitalizing!) is what awaits those who are violent toward God.
[. . .]
The absolute center of hell – Like Lucifer, half submerged in the ice lake, one last thing remains in the sink: the soggy, stubborn end of an onion, carelessly tossed in the there and causing a slow drain. I pluck it out and head literally to the TV room, but metaphorically into the River of Lethe, or forgetfulness. Otherwise, why would I do this again tomorrow night?” –Beth McConnell, A Madison Mom, September 10, 2016
–Rae, Peas and Cougars, November 22, 2011