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The Antigone Poems Paperback – June 15, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


"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

"The Antigone Poems is a beautifully made object. Only every other page is printed. The book has a section-sewn binding. Charcoal drawings on French folds are striking and fierce, conveying a strong sense of the otherness of ancient Greece. For the ancient Greeks were not at all like us: their language was a wild cry in the dark, a wailing wind; their battles were savage; their gods hard and desperate; their people superstitious.It is these attributes of the ancient Greeks that Marie Slaight’s poems capture, not the play. Her interest, I think, is not in the play; it is in the figures of the play, all of whom are larger than life, tragic, restricted by rules and duty: ardent, violent, severe. The drawings reflect these qualities; they are aggressive and haunting, even brutal, and the use of charcoal suggests a darkness that cannot be alleviated. Slaight and Tasker collaborated on this book in the seventies; they were then living in Montreal and Toronto. It’s not often that a forty-year-old manuscript finds its way to publication, but we are fortunate that this one has done so...this book—the poems and the drawings, the paper, the cover, the printing— is serious, intelligent, one of a kind, and gorgeous. It is a major find, a supplement to or interpretation of the Sophoclean play as much as is Anne Carson’s Antigonick and more unified. (Sophocles, born nearly five hundred years B.C., was himself a writer who furthered the modernization of Greece, moving toward characterization and a natural idiom of speech.)
The Antigone Poems can be read quickly but absorbing them, and the drawings, takes more time, contemplative time. Philosophical time. I cannot recommend this book highly enough." -Kelly Cherry, award winning poet and author of 'A Kind of Dream', for Blue Fifth Review.

From the Inside Flap

An intensely personal invocation of the Sophocles tragedy, The Antigone Poems questions power, punishment and one of mythology's oldest themes: rebellion. Created in the 1970s while writer Marie Slaight and artist Terrence Tasker were living in Montreal and Toronto, its poetry and images capture the anguish of the original tale in an unembellished modernized rendition. The work's obsessive, ritualistic and ultimately mysterious force brings into sharp focus the heroic, tragic figure at the centre of the primordial compact between gods and humans.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Altaire Productions & Publications; First edition (June 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980644704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980644708
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MARIE SLAIGHT (1954 - ) has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer, and performer for film, theatre and music. Her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Marie Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company, which has been involved in independent New Orleans music and such films as the award-winning documentary Bury the Hatchet, Kindred and Happy Baby. The Antigone Poems, written in the 1970s and a collaboration with artist Terrence Tasker, is her first published collection of poetry.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kyle on June 21, 2014
Format: Paperback
I disagree with some of the reviews that I have read that Marie Slaight creates a modern retelling of the aforementioned play. I do not believe that these poems will be understood as someone telling the classic with a modern twist, which is a little misleading depending on how you read some of the descriptions and reviews of this book. However, this is still an excellent book, you will be brought into the symbolism and imagery of Antigone's heroic yet terrible narrative. These poems were written in the 1970's, attached with charcoal sketches of the same time period when the author and illustrator were in Montreal and Toronto.

However, don't think that you wouldn't enjoy the book just because you know nothing of Antigone. These poems are beautiful and brilliant as stand alone poems. I was surprised how fast I ate up these poems, and they were very quick to read. I believe I finished this book for my second time around just on the bus back to my apartment. You will be amazed at the morbid yet impeccably intricate details, subtle rhyme, and alliteration that is littered through every poem in this small collection.

The charcoals are GORGEOUS. They are definitely a huge plus for the book, you get a couple littered in between the poems and a lot of beautiful charcoal sketches at the end of the book. I can admit that it might be a reason for the high price.

In the end, this book is definitely something to pick up and read. I recommend you shop around for a good price, or just go ahead and buy it nice and new! I saw some pictures of the physical cover and I admit it is beau-ti-ful!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By books492 on November 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
Certain stories are timeless, and they can be reshaped in many ways, without losing their essence, such is the story of Antigone. First introduced to the world as a heroine by Sophocles, she now re-emerges in The Antigone Poems of Marie Slaight. However, the heroine of this volume is not one woman, but all.

This volume’s cover is haunting through the intensity of its simplicity. Before we read Slaight’s poems, we see Terrence Tasker’s work, to whom this volume is actually dedicated. Tasker’s charcoal drawings close each of the five chapters of the book and their raw quality matches that of the poems. Even if there aren’t that many drawings, they leave their imprint not just on the pages, but on your memory as well. The beauty in Terrence Tasker’s drawings lies in his ability to allow and almost unnoticeably push the viewer to project their own images over his. The images I saw were filled with pain, desolation, and silent despair.

Also, the format of the book is very well thought out since it becomes a tool to control the reader. The empty page which faithfully follows each poem forces us to reflect – even if only fractions of a second – more on what we have just experienced. It dictates the tempo of Marie Slaight’s song.

Her words align themselves obediently to the rhythm of some foreign tribal drums. It’s not so much the words themselves, but how they are put to use that empowers these poems. Their order seems unnatural at first, but each time you read them, they speak to you more. Also, many unexpected associations challenge the reader’s imagination “like scattered dynamite/dissembled power/shattered glass”. There are certain words that reoccur almost obsessively (blood, daemon, sun) which haunt Antigone through her journey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vine Leaves Literary Journal on September 19, 2014
Format: Paperback
Review by Jessica Bell

What an honour to have been given a review copy of The Antigone Poems. I gobbled this book up. Then gobbled it up again. Then savoured each word during my third read through. Notice a couple of eating-related words there? This is no mistake. This book isn’t just a meal, it’s a five-course meal.

The Antigone Poems is so stark and striking in design. Minimal text decorates the large cream cartridge pages, giving you the impression that you’re about to dine on a variety of French dishes. And once you begin reading, each poem overwhelms your senses with potent flavours and subtle seasonings. With every word you push through your lips (this book must be read aloud), comes a new and intensified spice of irresistible pain and angst.

Though this book is an “intensely personal invocation of the ancient Greek tragedy,” Antigone, by the ancient Greek tragedian, Sophocles, you do not need to have read Sophocles’ timeless tale to “get” it. I could, probably, with a little more time on my hands, write a review that references individual moments in the original play, but I won’t. Not because it wouldn’t be an interesting exercise, but because I think this book needs to be read and enjoyed without potential readers feeling burdened by the subject matter.

I’ll say it again: You do not need to have read Antigone to enjoy this book.

This book is about life and death, pain and love. If you have a dark passionate side to your soul like me, you will surely find yourself salivating over breathtaking lines such as:

If this perfume doesn’t burst
It will twist into venom.


All love pains
Are an aged protest
Wanting fresh surge;
Decrying the ancient throb
Of memories.
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