A beautifully bound, impressive collection with language as evocative as its illustrations.

THE ANTIGONE POEMS

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.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0980644708

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Altaire Production & Publication

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A warm homage and affecting memoir.

NINA SIMONE'S GUM

The surprising cultural afterlife of a wad of gum.

In 1999, Australian musician and composer Ellis was in the audience at the Meltdown Festival in London, directed by his collaborator Nick Cave, eager to see Nina Simone, whom he venerated as a goddess. She walked out on stage, Ellis recalls, looking tired, defiant, angry, and in pain. When she sat down at the piano, she stuck the gum she was chewing on the underside of the keyboard. Feeding on the audience’s adulation, she gave a triumphant performance: “People were in shock. Faces wet with tears, not knowing where to look or how to speak. We had witnessed something monumental, a miracle. This communion that had taken place, between her and us.” After the concert, Ellis scrambled on stage, took the gum, wrapped it in her towel, and kept it. That wad of gum is the central image of the author’s guileless and reflective debut memoir, in which he recounts his musical career from the time he played violin, accordion, and flute as a child; his collaboration with Cave and the Bad Seeds and work with the Dirty Three; and the meaning of his treasure. Ellis believes his life changed once he took possession of the gum. He married and “weighed up what was important to me,” and he saw the gum’s significance emanate to others when Cave asked him to contribute it to an exhibition at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen. Being separated from the gum felt traumatic: What if it were lost or stolen? “This tiny object,” he reflected, was gathering meaning “like a tornado”—to the empathetic jeweler who cast it in silver, the museum staff who exhibited it behind bulletproof glass wired with a burglar alarm, and everyone who viewed it. The gum represented Simone: “her voice, her strength and resolve. Her defiance, courage, fearlessness.” The book is illustrated with photographs of the gum’s unlikely journey.

A warm homage and affecting memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-571-36562-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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