What an honour to have been given a review copy of The Antigone Poems. I gobbled this book up. Then gobbled it up again. Then savoured each word during my third read through. Notice a couple of eating-related words there? This is no mistake. This book isn’t just a meal, it’s a five-course meal.
The Antigone Poems is so stark and striking in design. Minimal text decorates the large cream cartridge pages, giving you the impression that you’re about to dine on a variety of French dishes. And once you begin reading, each poem overwhelms your senses with potent flavours and subtle seasonings. With every word you push through your lips (this book must be read aloud), comes a new and intensified spice of irresistible pain and angst.
Though this book is an “intensely personal invocation of the ancient Greek tragedy,” Antigone, by the ancient Greek tragedian, Sophocles, you do not need to have read Sophocles’ timeless tale to “get” it. I could, probably, with a little more time on my hands, write a review that references individual moments in the original play, but I won’t. Not because it wouldn’t be an interesting exercise, but because I think this book needs to be read and enjoyed without potential readers feeling burdened by the subject matter.
I’ll say it again: You do not need to have read Antigone to enjoy this book.
This book is about life and death, pain and love. If you have a dark passionate side to your soul like me, you will surely find yourself salivating over breathtaking lines such as:
If this perfume doesn’t burst
It will twist into venom.
All love pains
Are an aged protest
Wanting fresh surge;
Decrying the ancient throb
Not only are these lines breathtaking, but they also embody so much perpetual truth, much like the words in Sophocles’ tragedies do. But again, you do not need to know that, to feel that.
Let me move on from the words now, because the way the words are presented have so much meaning and depth, too.
In Chapter One (there are five chapters), concise, yet rich, fragments of text garnish each page, which gradually grow in length, until the last page of the chapter where we are struck with a full page of prose. I can’t help but think this was done purposefully to symbolize the way in which pain cultivates inside us and then explodes into a chaos you can no longer contain.
At the end of each chapter is a charcoal drawing. Very stark and powerful images of faces. As the book progresses, a little more detail is added to the images, as though the emotion pulsing through the poems is also being reflected through the faces. I won’t go into any more detail here, as I don’t want to ruin the experience of reading/viewing it for yourself.
All in all, an amazing book. I highly recommend it to all lovers of poetry and fans of Greek tragedy. Excuse me while I relax under the Greek sun, to read through this remarkable book for a fourth time.
Note: If you seem to be living in Greece while reading this book (like me), it’s an added bonus.