"IN the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct: and e'en to tell
It were no easy task, how savage wild
That forest, how robust and rough its growth,
Which to remember only, my dismay
Renews, in bitterness not far from death.
Yet to discourse of what there good befell,
All else will I relate discover'd there."
In this adventurous and stimulating experiment in translation, contemporary poets of quite varied persuasions--from Richard Howard to Deborah Digges--reconsider a looming ancestor, Dante. The 34 cantos of the Inferno are shared among 20 poets all known for their strong original work in English, and some, too, for their distinguished accomplishments as translators. The effect of the book is to summon a multiplicity of voices from the one, and to direct readers not only back to the source but to the varying tempos and temperaments of modern poetry in English. Some readers may, it's true, find the plurality of this Inferno engulfing, but it's difficult not to rejoice in such singular abundance. As a project in translation, this one is uncommonly educating, too, asking readers to make judgments on the various approaches and to decide for themselves what matters most about the poetry. In that sense, literary connoisseurship becomes a seemly match for the moral connoisseurship of Dante's work, where sins and sinners are mapped out with a horrifying vividness, harmoniously observed. All readers will have their own favorites, whether these are Cynthia Macdonald's sleekly vigorous Cantos VI and VII, the devastating elegance of Jorie Graham's XI and XII, or others. And yet, the point is finally the whole--the full company, and not the parts.