May 12, 2015

Review: The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight
Published by Altaire Productions and Publications
First edition: June 15, 2014.
Featuring poetry by Marie Slaight and charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker, The Antigone Poems was created in the 1970’s, while the artists were living between Montreal and Toronto. An intensely personal invocation of the ancient Greek tale of defiance, the illustrations and poetry capture the despair of the original tale in an unembellished modernized rendition.   The Antigone Poems provides a special expedition into the depths of the ancient Sophocles tragedy while questioning  power, punishment and one of mythology’s oldest themes: rebellion.

My comments:

To better understand the poems, it's helpful to know the story of Antigone.
In the tragic Greek tale, Antigone is buried alive in a cave by Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, after she performs forbidden burial rites for her brother Polyneices who was slain fighting against Creon. Creon's punishment of Antigone is considered too harsh and he relents, but it is too late as Antigone has committed suicide in the cave. Her fiance and Creon's son, Haemon, kills himself after finding Antigone's body. Also dead is Creon's wife, Eurydice, Creon is left alone to mourn his losses and his mistakes.
(first poem, chapter one):
In my skull (all)
The hungry cawing.
In tormented call. 
In my heart (only)
The last flutter.
In whispered song. 
Reaction to the poems: 
The poems are intense; they repeat the themes of anguish, torment, pain, suffocation, fire, frustration that must reflect Antigone. The poems of loneliness, blood, anger, and blackness might very well reflect Creon's thoughts and moods. The very short poems, one per page, are grouped in chapters, and it wasn't clear to me which character might be described in each chapter. They are all tragic in atmosphere and mood. The Antigone Poems have modern references, and probably should be read in two different ways. Once with the story of the Greek Antigone in mind, and the second time with the poet expressing her own thoughts and ideas, as tortured as a modern Antigone..

The illustrations:
The black and white illustrations reflect very well the themes of the poems. They are stark and grim and help to convey the dark feelings of the characters.

I was glad to read this interesting book of poems, especially in light of the Antigone story. I recommend it be read at least twice, with two different mindsets - one with a Greek tragedy in mind and one as stark and dramatic poems written in the 21st century.

To learn more about The Antigone Poems, please visit
MARIE SLAIGHT (1954-) has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer, and performer. Now based in Sydney, Australia, her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company.
TERRENCE TASKER (1947-1992) was born in Saskatchewan, Canada and become an artist and filmmaker. He co-founded and built the original Studio Altaire, a 90-seat theater and visual art gallery that also ran after hours jazz concerts in Montreal. He created the artwork for The Antigone Poems in the 1970s, while living in Montreal and Toronto.
Visit the tour schedule for more reviews, giveaways, and information about the book. TLC Book Tours and the author provided the book of poetry for review. 


Suko said...

Harvee, I am also on the tour for this book, later this month. The poems are intense. Excellent review!

Harvee said...

Thanks, Suko. Looking forward to your thoughts.


nikki @bookpunks said...

Ooh interesting. I don't gravitate toward much poetry, but I like the sound of this so far. Thanks for sharing.

My opener post lives here:

Brian Joseph said...

I have hear really good things about this collection. I really want to read it.

I like your idea of reading the poems twice with two different points of view. Reading like this often brings to light all sorts of interesting things.

Harvee said...

Short poems, easy to read, Nikki.

Harvee said...

Brian, the other reviewers on the tour are giving away a copy of the books in a contest.

Jemi Fraser said...

These do sound intense and tragic!

Harvee said...

Poems one can read several times, Jemi!

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I like the idea of reading this twice, with a different mindset each time. Thanks for the recommendation and for being a part of the tour!

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