This is the most strangely beautiful book to come across this desk in a long time. First, it's always interesting to have a publisher print a work 40 years after it's written without disclosing why. All that we know is that the writer and artist lived in Montreal and Toronto in the 1970's. I guess Tasker's death in 1992 has something to do with this premiere.
First we should know something about Antigone in literature. Well it's an ancient Greek tragedy where Antigone, the female protagonist, is ultimately jailed and sentenced to death, and all you need to know is that everyone--all the principles--die in the end, except for the prison guards. I'm not being flippant, but truthfully, to read these poems, that's all you need to know.
And I ADORE these weird little poems. They are surreal and wild. The charcoal drawings are terrifyingly brilliant. They scare the bejesus out of you and you can't stop turning the pages. It's like bingeing on BREAKING BAD and WAKING THE DEAD both at once. I deem this a holy book--written in ecstasy and the madness of genius and I hope it's reprinted and lasts forever. The poems are untitled. Check this out:
We live our lives
The instant between life and death
To touch death always,
That is the sun.
This copy I hold in my hand--no one will ever get from me. This is ART you cannot buy or sell. It is the flaming center of the volcano that makes us create. Grace Cavalieri, The Washington Independent Review of Books
Haunting. If one word describes Marie Slaight’s The Antigone Poems, this is it.
The collection of poems, some only a fragment of a thought, others filling the page with a stream of consciousness narrative, tells the story of Antigone from the first person perspective of Antigone herself. Loosely based on the Greek myth of Antigone, who inevitably suffers as a rebel in her family, the poems are filled with anguish, emotional violence and suffering. However, Slaight comments near the end of her book that she wanted to “live all lives, all deaths, encompass all women.” Thus the pain, anguish, and suffering in this book applies to more than just the doomed Antigone of Greek mythology; it applies to the collective suffering of all women.
The tone of the poems is understandably dark considering the subject material, and the periodic charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker only enhance the haunting nature of the story told by Slaight. Furthermore, the poems are delivered from a deeply personal and intimate viewpoint, so the reader is often tied directly to the emotions of the speaker. The often short form of each poem also helps add an intimate feeling as each poem seems to represent a separate thought about Antigone’s torment.
For those who are not familiar with the original roots of the Greek myth involving Antigone, some readers may have little grounding to understand the greater narrative taking place in the poems. For this reason, some research or prior knowledge is helpful to understand the basis of the collection. Nevertheless, as already pointed out, this collection encompasses more than the sufferings of a single woman; it involves the torment of many.
Overall, Slaight’s The Antigone Poems, written in the 1970s and never released until now, is a disturbingly poignant and startlingly vivid portrait of one woman’s suffering in the face of pain and heartbreak. It will surely not be forgotten after the turn of the last page.’ The San Francisco Book Review
Rich in allegory and metaphor, this illustrated collection of poetry explores the tragedy of Antigone, the defiant woman of Greek myth.
With a strong first-person narrative, the collection is divided into five chapters featuring fragmented poems that explore love, loss, passion and pain through Antigone’s eyes. The book opens with a riveting prelude: “And sing / my bitter praises / to nails / and flint / and flesh.” As the collection moves forward, Slaight continues with poems that are spare yet precise in their language and construction. The first chapter introduces Antigone as a woman awakening, through pain, to her senses as well as to her vulnerability and power: “The passion comes angrily…then the awakening of all senses, nerves—open, alive, tingling.” However, there’s no consistent narrative thread to follow through the collection; rather, fragments and images capture Antigone’s journey. Some of the stronger lines focus on her insight into her role as a rebel: “All love pains / Are an aged protest / Wanting fresh surge; / Decrying the ancient throb / Of memories.” Slaight’s poems also use this close first-person perspective to unpack Antigone’s struggle for independence and identity as a woman—“Fought order, limits, time.” It is not exactly clear why Slaight focuses more on Antigone’s suffering and less on her rebellion from Creon, ruler of Thebes, though a later chapter provides a transition into her exile: “I walk on blood / I carve a vein / I bear sons / In exile / I carry screams / I seek revenge / I await return / In exile.” Throughout, Tasker’s haunting charcoal drawings reflect the tone of anguish and despair in Slaight’s poetry.
A beautifully bound, impressive collection with language as evocative as its illustrations.’ Kirkus Reviews