Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Antigone Poems

We live our lives
The instant between life and death.
To touch death always.
That is the sun.

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight and illustrated by Terrence Tasker, are a collection of poems interspersed by some really eerily haunting artwork. They are based on the Sophocles play Antigone, or to be more accurate use Antigone as a mouthpiece to represent womankind – sometimes on a really direct personal level, sometimes as a collective noun with the idea of representing a state of all women.
For those not familiar with the Greek tale, Antigone, is the third part of a trilogy of plays by Sophocles collectively known as the Theban plays, the play begins with two brothers killing each other on the battlefield after leading opposing sides in Thebes' civil war, Creon who takes over as ruler of Thebes, declares that Eteocles will be honoured and that his brother and traitor Polyneices will be publicly shamed - his body left unsanctified and unburied on the battlefield.

Fought order, limits, time.
Time of surrender or death.
To go where no one has been,
The past destroyed by heat.


Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, is faced with the choice of allowing her brother Polyneices' body to remain unburied, beyond the city walls, for him to become mere carrion or to disobey Creon, bury him and face her own death. Antigone decides to bury his body and face the consequences of her actions. Creon incarcerates her and sentences her to death. Although he does change his mind, his decision comes too late as Antigone commits suicide, this triggers the suicide of two others close to the King: his son, Haemon, who was to wed Antigone, and his wife, Eurydice, who commits suicide after losing her only surviving son.

As stated above, although a knowledge of the tale, allows another level of understanding to these poems, I don't believe that it is entirely necessary - anyone reading them couldn't help but be affected by the imagery these poems conjure up, add to that the charcoal illustrations disquietingly capture the dark foreboding nature of the words and the combination has an elegiac and yet at the same time a beautiful and oppressive quality that uses the idea of lamentation as a force of rage and pain, as though standing up a witness to all the wrongs suffered, knowing that you'll be knocked down, but will stand anyway - because you could not do otherwise, and in this sense the poems transcend any idea of a specific gender role, vociferating against the collective wrongdoing, from wherever it or to whomever it occurs.

This voice
Is afraid to speak.

Of the brutal metal
Of its words

Words that scrape
Words that scar
Words that have no peace

If I utter this voice
This great
Aching scream

Its horror will echo forever.

The Antigone Poems are a beautiful haunting lamentation that through the medium of words and illustration manage to portray the loneliness, despair and pain that can shadow humanity, but it also portrays that indomitable spirit that stands and says no, this is wrong I shall not be part of it. It is also an elegant work of art, from the paper it is printed on to the way the words and images are placed on the pages.

Marie Slaight

Co-founder of the original Studio Altaire in Montreal, Marie Slaight has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer and performer for film, theatre and music. Her play, Random Shots, was produced at the Theatre Centre in Toronto. She collaborated on a series of short films with Terrence Tasker and was an actor and creative consultant for National Film Board of Canada co-productions. 

Her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Other jobs over the years include working in a jewellery factory, as a farm worker, artist model, scene painter, nightclub photographer, and both teaching English and running a bed and breakfast while living in Buenos Aires. Marie Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company, which has been involved in creative consulting and co-producing for independent New Orleans music and such films as the award-winning documentary Bury the Hatchet, Happy Baby Kindred and Anna and Modern Day Slavery.

Terrence Tasker

 (1947-1992) was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, the son of a lumberjack. Raised in rural western Canada, he went on to become a self-taught artist and filmmaker. He made a series of short films: Steps, The Abortion, and Echo, which screened in New York and Toronto. In 1981 he co-founded and built the original Studio Altaire, a 90-seat theatre and visual art gallery that also ran after hours jazz concerts and poetry readings in downtown Montreal. 

He worked as a set builder for Montreal's Centaur Theatre, Toronto Free Theatre and others and film such as The Resurrected and Deep Sleep, as well as working in construction, mining, finance, industrial installations, taxi driving and as a film projectionist. He created the artwork for The Antigone Poems in the 1970s, while living in Montreal and Toronto. Terrence died in 1992 at age 45.



I received this through Netgalley expecting an E-copy, but was contacted by the publishers who offered me a hard copy which I gratefully accepted & I'm glad I did as this is the best way to experience this work.


Antigone Poems 

Altaire Productions & Publications

Art ~ Terrence Tasker




Brian Joseph said...

Superb commentary.

Antigone is a great work snd this sounds really good. The verse that you posted above is so very powerful. The frustrated despair in those words is something that will stay with me.

Rise said...

I received a copy of this book in 2013. This is indeed a forceful collection, given the evocative images and the terse poetry in between.

@parridhlantern said...

Hello Rise

Yes I saw that this has been promoted/published before & it's also part of a blog tour at this moment. But it appealed, that reference to mythology as well as that artwork/ poetry just hooked my interest as I seem to have a mythology phase going on at the moment, I recently posted on Scandinavian mythology am currently reading Japanese mythology & I have a book of poetry that references Tiresias

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Brian
add on the illustrations and the whole artwork will become etched on your retina as well as your mind, will soon be writing about a rapper who has a book of poetry about from uses Tiresias as its base

Bellezza said...

I'm so glad you have a hard copy; of all the bloggers I know, you most deserve it. Not only because that's the best way to enjoy the artwork, but because the poems are best delivered into your hands, who can properly share them with the rest of us.

@parridhlantern said...

Thanks Bellezza, I was happy that the publisher offered me a hard copy. I think it wouldn't really work as an e-copy