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The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight

abstract:I hold in my hand a copy of The Antigone Poems (Altaire Publication 2014, poetry/art). As a book maker I value production quality. The choice of paper, ink, binding, type, layout, images; all of these decisions go into making both pulp editions or a trade art piece. The former is fast disappearing into digital fodder. But people with a regard for artifact have produced the latter with Antigone Poems.

Antigone has a rich brown, generously-thick card stock cover with a French fold that is printed with a creamy silhouetted charcoal drawing by Terrance Tasker (1947-1992). A line from the poetry inside seems to describe the haunting image of the woman depicted at right: "No words, Only the gaping silent scream." The poetry is an homage to the Sophocles tragedy written before 441 BCE wherein the debate over ethical principles governing civil and family law by rule of God or man is argued. But an interesting part of the story behind the making of this slender volume lends additional perspective.

Surprisingly, the source material—verse and drawings, were created in the 1970s while poet, Marie Slaight and artist, Terrance Tasker lived together in Montreal and Toronto. Reading Antigone, I begin to ponder their relationship. (The book is dedicated to TT.) Through this work I imagine them in their youth with a roiling ferver for life--artistic passion mixed with lust, obsession, anger, fear, questions—the stuff of life. Their hormonally gorged vessels pulsing with energy that fuels their respective ouevres.

Had he lived, Terrance would have


January 18, 2015
— been 68 now. Marie somewhere close? As hormones wane, we look back with clarity upon the intensity of their art. Intensity informed by and and paying homage to the Greek classic, lending their own modern voices: writhing twisting screaming and softening.

The poems are divided into 5 chapters leading with Terrance's work. The dedication reads:

And sing
My bitter praises
To nails
And flint
And flesh...

I like to read poetry backwards first. It helps to focus on words and phrasing, I get less caught up in story if there's one to be told. I love the honesty of this, and give thanks that Straight and Tasker's work has been preserved for this generation and beyond:

And why?
I wanted everything
To live all lives, all deaths, encompass all women.
To smash every confine.
And what have I done. [no question mark]
I don't know.
I have written a few words
Created a few images
Influenced a few lives.
I lived at the corner of St. Lawrence and Pine. I have three children.

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