INTERVIEW BY TIMEA BARABAS, BOOK REVIEWER, ROMANIA. 2014
TIMEA BARABAS: What triggered The Antigone Poems?MARIE SLAIGHT: So difficult to answer! I first came across Antigone in acting classes with a superb teacher in Toronto, Eli Rill. I was 17 or 18. I worked on Jean Anouilh’s Antigone and became quite immersed. I met Terrence Tasker around the same time. Simultaneously, we began working on a filmic adaptation of Antigone, while he was painting/drawing and I was writing. We began living together. So The Antigone Poems themselves are a result of a synthesis of many elements. In term of what triggered my interest, as in ‘why Antigone’, it is the essential questions it brings into play. What will we do for what we believe in? How far will we go to stand up for our convictions? What is the power of one individual voice? What is the price we pay?
BARABAS: Did the Antigone film project ever materialize?SLAIGHT: No, not the feature. We did shoot one short film based on it.
BARABAS: Would you recommend reading this volume to someone who is not familiarized with Sophocle's Antigone?SLAIGHT: Absolutely. The hope would be that there are realities and truths in both the poetry and art that exist in their own right, regardless of context and framework…I believed that if one dug inside oneself deep enough, that the absoutely personal would break into something eternal and/or universal.
BARABAS: Did you recognize yourself in Antigone?SLAIGHT: Yes. Because that question of standing for one’s beliefs, of speaking out and bearing the consequences, the question and consequences of character and compromise, is what most obssesses and interests me in life.
BARABAS: How do you feel about regret? Is there something you would change about your past actions?SLAIGHT: Oh, god, yes. More than I would have time to recount. Each and every instance when I showed any cowardice whatsoever. Times when I simply and horribly did the worng thing. When I did not speak out, or protect myself or the innocent. Looking back, I can see a life of error and attempted, but not necessarily successful, rectification. I think the only victory in my own life is simply in the refusal to give up.
BARABAS: To what extent do you think that Antigone's spirit is present in the 21st century women?SLAIGHT: I think it is present, or at work, in every one, not just women. And at all times, not just modern. Whether one acknowledges it or not, each human decides, again and again, how far they will go, will they remain silent in the face of what they believe is wrong-doing. How much will we swallow and how complicitous does that make us with the wrong. I believe we choose every day, honourable or dishonourably, and live with the repercussions. I think we too often silence ourselves on what really matters and make too much noise on that which doesn’t.
BARABAS: What forces (as in genetics, education, personal experience…) do you feel like contributes most in positioning a person on the axis of compromise-staying true to oneself?SLAIGHT: I think it is each and every aspect of existance in conjunction with our truest qualitites. I think we are each born with a very absolute and irrevocable core self, which then, most likely, goes throught the mill of human life and it’s possible horrors, and I think that trying to preserve that purity and truth is the most absolute challenge in life. The challenge would compound depending on the inherent birth traits and the environment one is born into; time, place, era, culture, family, community. The whole mess.
BARABAS: Your poems are soaked in raw emotion... Was writing them cathartic?SLAIGHT: Writing them was absolute necessity. I suppose that is cathartic in itself, then. It was part of life and I didn’t think about the effect on myself. It was a pretty dire compulsion. But if catharsis is ‘purification, purgation’, then yes, absolutely.
BARABAS: The charcoal drawings add to the uniqueness of this volume. Were these always in plan, or were they a later addition?SLAIGHT: The artwork grew out of the same dynamic and life, but we didn’t set out to do this exact book. It was a result of life and art that resolved itself and came to me later. We were immersed in the same myths and life. I find the artwork superb and the poetry woud be very incomplete without them.
BARABAS: Since these poems were written across several years, was it hard to keep them connected?SLAIGHT: No. There was, for me, an obvious and organic follow through/narrative. I realise this may not obvious to readers, though. I wrote copiously most days, and then would carve and carve until I felt I had struck a ‘piece of essence’. 10 pages might result in 5 words, on a good day.
BARABAS: Did you have a daily schedule that you rigurously followed?SLAIGHT: No. Life was pretty chaotic by our natures and changed every day. We moved relentlessly; a few months in each place and then on to another. Our hours were erratic, our jobs were erratic, we broke up and reconciled a lot, etc., but we did produce a lot. We also had three children during those years and were in a constant scramble to make enough money to survive. I have always had real problems with discipline; still do.
BARABAS: What is more important when writing, inspiration or hard work? What percentage would you give each?SLAIGHT: I don’t know percentage-wise but each equally, I would think. With only hard work but no inspiration, you could, I think, create an truly solid body of work, but with no inspiration, it might lack that spark of fire that makes something so awesome. No hard work? Nothing would be achieved. But, really, I think the real question is one of honesty; the honest voice. I think more in terms of honesty than inspiration; digging to find the truest word and thought. But there were times a piece came to me fully formed and complete; was that inspiration? I don’t know, and who knows how much previous work on different levels went into it before it ‘appeared’.
BARABAS: How did you know when the volume was complete?SLAIGHT: It was innate and self-evident. The story ended on many levels. The argument and questions of the poems ended, not in life but in the work itself. The next piece of writing, after the last in this volume was part of another story.
BARABAS: And what is the following story about?SLAIGHT: All the writing I have done circles on similar themes but the myth of Antigone was finally done. The next volume is focused on what liberation is and means.
BARABAS: After holding on to the content of this book for so long, how does it feel to let it go and share it?SLAIGHT: Bizarre. I am extremely happy to put Terrence’s work out in the public, and more than that, feel obligated to do so and that is probably my strongest motivation. The work itself, the writing? Hard to describe the relation to that extremely young voice at my age. I have had such a strong drive to be private, to keep apart, that throwing something into the marketplace, as such, is strange for me. I am glad it is out there, whatever the voice and truth of that collection is. But so many eons separate me from the work…too many lives lived. I am pretty impartial at this point. Bad reviews roll off my back! I really wanted to make a beautiful book, though. Knew exactly what I wanted and how it had to be, which is why I did not offer it for publication elsewhere, but did it through my own company, which is an indepenent arts co. that has been around awhile. I am proud of the book itself… I am not satisfied with the final print job, though. They messed up and I will reprint.
BARABAS: What impact do you hope The Antigone Poems will have on its readers?SLAIGHT: That would be the hardest question! I think it is dangerous to even think in those terms. At least while creating it. People don’t read/receive/interprete anything the same way. Good, bad, or indifferent, they will derive different things from it, read different things into it, and some will get absolutley nothing. I hope people appreciate the artwork and the actual physicality of the book, the tactile experience of it. In terms of the poetic work, I would hope, if anything, it would make people think, question, and dig deeper. Kafka said something re writing being the ax on the frozen ice within us. If The Antigone Poems could evoke, or provoke that which lies within us, that would be great.