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.