Caravaggio’s Dagger – A Pursuit of Right Action – Hendrik Slegtenhorst (2013)

Do we, then, find ourselves unable to know how to act ethically in our society — a society that glorifies money and global trade to make the rich richer, that deposits the poor at the outermost edges of community, that stands aside as our heritage disintegrates, that funds wars that dislocate peoples and destroy countries, that supports beliefs steeped in greed but cares nothing about the true value and meaning of life?

Caravaggio's Dagger, Hamburg, Firestorm, Operation Gomorrah

Hamburg 1943. The aftermath of the firestorm produced by the RAF’s Operation Gomorrah, which enabled my father to escape the Nazi labour camp in which he was imprisoned and to go into hiding in his native Netherlands.

The intent of this book is to enable the discovery of ways and means to find a way through these deceits, and so guide a reconsideration of any course of action thought to be right, even though we knew, in our heart, it could not bring happiness, ever.

Caravaggio’s Dagger concentrates on identification of the need and process for the selection of right action, and, as a direct consequence, the creation of constructive, and ethically meaningful, social and personal benefit.

In six chapters, Caravaggio’s Dagger examines these concerns, beginning with the constancy of war and related social falsehoods; and continuing with decisions, especially those that affect relationships, that are made when you are young; the evaluation of these relationships as reach middle age; the value these relationships hold when the inevitable loss of family sets in; the lessons your life partner and your friends will want to help you through; to enable you to find and take the course of action that is right, for you, in the moral rubble found all around you.

The book is introduced in 70 seconds in this video:

Caravaggio’s Dagger is available for purchase in print, Kindle, and Epub editions at:


Chapters Indigo

Iguana Books

and through many other international and local online distributors.

Exemplified by the art of Caravaggio, this work inquires: what, then, is a pursuit of right action? Caravaggio, the murderous, brilliant 16th-century painter, depicted the beheading of John the Baptist at the moment the act is botched: jugular severed, head attached, the saint in agony—a rendering of humanity’s predilections placed above the altar of the Maltese co-cathedral of the military Knights of Saint John.

An article on destruction by bombardment, is found here; from the opening of the book, on refugees, is found here; on the fragility of relationships, is found here; and, on emigration, is found here. An article on the origin of Caravaggio’s Dagger can be read here.

Structurally, the book is comprised of 83 poems grouped into six taxonomies, each dealing predominantly with one of the six concerns described above, and which are titled:

  • Pyre of the Accidental Butterfly
  • In the North of the Afternoon
  • At the Widening of the Narrows
  • The Waterways of Avalon
  • Confluence of the Tributaries
  • Caravaggio’s Dagger

Caravaggio’s Dagger is published by Iguana Books (Toronto, Ontario, 2013, 105 pp.). Its chapbook version was a finalist for the Sharon Drummond Chapbook Prize, Calgary, Alberta, 2013. Many of this book’s poems were previously published in established Canadian literary periodicals such as Canadian Literature (University of British Columbia), Descant, The Fiddlehead (University of New Brunswick), Grain, Prairie Fire, The New Quarterly (University of Waterloo), Nashwaak Review (St. Thomas University), Contemporary Verse 2, The Malahat Review (University of Victoria), Qwerty (University of New Brunswick), WordWorks, and Windsor Review (University of Windsor), as well as in well-regarded periodicals that have ceased publication, such as Ala, Colorado Quarterly, Quarry, and The Far Point. 


19 thoughts on “Caravaggio’s Dagger – A Pursuit of Right Action – Hendrik Slegtenhorst (2013)

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  11. Thank you for writing on what appears to be a thoughtful pursuit of taxing complexities with their staggering consequences for humanity, earth and universe. Are we asking and seeking yet what the true source of right action/ moral deed is?


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