Monday, February 16, 2015

Marie Slaight, The Antigone Poems, plus Artist Terrence Tasker

AUTHOR: Marie Slaight/ARTIST: Terrence Tasker
BOOK TITLE: The Antigone Poems
GENRE: Poetry/Art
PUBLISHER: Altaire Productions

NOTE:  The author and artist would like to giveaway two copies of their book. If you're interested, please leave your contact information so they can email you to obtain your mailing address. This is a lovely fully illustrated volume.


Please tell us about yourself.

I am more or less from Montreal. I was co-founder of Studio Altaire in Montreal, a visual and performance arts studio, and have worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer, and performer for film, theatre and music. My play, Random Shots, was produced at the Theatre Centre in Toronto, I collaborated on a series of short films with Terrence Tasker and was an actor and creative consultant for National Film Board of Canada co-productions. My poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Other jobs over the years include working in a jewelry factory, as a farm worker, artist model, scene painter, nightclub photographer, and both teaching English and running a bed and breakfast while living in Buenos Aires. I am currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company, which has been involved in creative consulting and co-producing for independent New Orleans music and such films as the award-winning documentary Bury the Hatchet, Happy Baby Kindred and Anna and Modern Day Slavery.

Please tell us your latest news.

I have just published The Antigone Poems, through my company Altaire Productions. It was created by Terrence Tasker and me during the 1970s, in Canada. We are still working on the marketing of that while doing other Altaire film work, and we are about to get to work on an anthology of short crime fiction.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

My writing abilities seem to have been lost with a few small strokes I had awhile back. As a result I have been involved in a lot of other work, but I hope I am able to continue.   My writing time is early mornings, with coffee, in a café, after reading the papers. Then random times

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as soon as I could read and wrote throughout my life until the strokes came along. Writing was as simple as breathing and as necessary. I still remember the feeling of power I got from words on paper as a small kid.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book is The Antigone Poems. I first came across the character of 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?

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

The best, or worst, insult from a reader at Library Thing, was that the book should be buried along with Antigone’s brother!

The best compliment was that it is a work of genius, and that came from the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?

My company, Altaire Productions & Publications, published The Antigone Poems. Altaire Productions & Publications first opened in 1978 as Studio Altaire in Toronto’s Kensington Market as a public art studio for the works of artist Terrence Tasker.
In 1981, Tasker and I moved to Montreal and opened Studio Altaire. We occupied 12,000 sq. feet of loft and office space above the French café-theatre La Licorne. Comprised of a 100-seat theatre and a separate art gallery as well as workshop and recording space, Studio Altaire featured theatre companies such as The Painted Bird Ensemble and St. Antoine Street Theatre companies, late night jazz and punk concerts, poetry readings, acting workshops, art exhibits and more.
In 2008, after years spent in New Orleans, Buenos Aires and Montreal, I began Altaire Productions & Publications in Sydney, Australia as an arts production company for independent artists. Altaire has been involved in and co-produced such films as Bury The Hatchet (US), Happy Baby (US), Kindred (Australia) and Anna and Modern day Slavery (UK-Po land) among others. Right now we are involved in the production of a short film based on a Raymond Carver story. The first book publication from Altaire is The Antigone Poems and we are working on 3 titles to be published in 2015.

What is your marketing plan?

We have an intensive marketing plan and the results were so detailed that we will be publishing a Resource Manual for Publishers from the material we gathered.
We chose to focus internationally, both off and online. We sent for review in Canada, Australia, US and UK, and found distribution in Canada and Us. We found that online ads in lit mags did the best in terms of instigating sales, by using Litbreaker, etc. Again, we focused on the 4 major English markets. Submitting the book for review at LibraryThing is excellent as well, and we did book give-aways with Goodreads. We are mailing complimentary copies to some international bookstores and libraries, submitting to awards, etc. We were not able to have a proper book launch as I was overseas with elderly parents, but will do so in 2015.

Tell me a little about your book. When did you first know you wanted to be a poet?

The Antigone Poems is based on the Greek myth of Antigone, who was put to death for her beliefs.  It also featured the charcoal artwork of Terrence Tasker, a Canadian artist who died in the early 1990s.  I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a poet; I simply wrote poetry from the beginning.

Why are you drawn to poetry?

I am not drawn to a lot of poetry, but when I am it is usually quite sculptural, and stark.  It is the images created and what they evoke. It is the fact that in poetry, things are, or can be, said that are not usually said in prose or in conversation.

Would you say poetry is easier or harder to write than fiction and why?

It would depend on who is writing and what one’s abilities and inclinations are. For some, one would come more naturally than the other. The poetry I respond to is very chiseled and worked on in the way you might sculpt or carve something. I think that fiction is, by its’ nature, expository, and poetry is more the distillation of emotion and experience.

What is the toughest part about being a poet, and how do you get past it?

I don’t think being a poet is any tougher than anything else in itself, but obviously making money from it is almost impossible. But it is a choice and possibly a compulsion.

I mean, why would anyone choose to be a poet if they weren’t driven to be and rewarded by the act itself?

Any tips for new writers hoping to write poetry? 

I would say, find the truest possible word and follow it with another. Just that. One word, then another word and no bull.  Four  good and true lines will beat pages of dribble. I would also say go inside yourself, to find your own language and work to avoid replicating the work of others.


What do you do when you’re not writing?

Hard question to answer, as I have done so much different stuff and moved around a lot; it changes. Travel, work on other genres of art, swim, read voraciously, walk, see films, hang out, work some more. I walk for hours every day, wandering, as well

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?

The incorrect and constant usage of the word ‘literally.’ Fatuous language, lack of organic logic.

What books have most influenced your life?

Would be more authors than specific books. Nikos Kazantzakis, Garcia Lorca, Mordecai Richler, Walker Percy, Jorge Amado, Lawrence Durell…

Describe your writing space.

I write in cafes, in longhand. I have lived in some great café cities; Montreal, New Orleans, Buenos Aires and now Sydney. So the opportunities have been great. I find a fairly empty café or courtyard or table on the street and go from there…has to be no music at all, or just jazz or r&b, and in the case of Buenos Aires, it’s getting harder to find that all the time. I can’t write if there is any form of techno music playing. So it is looking for a particular atmosphere…I can’t sit near anyone when I write.

What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?

My favorite part is the extreme solitude and the sense of one person, with one word and then another word following…and, when successful, the amazing sense of sculpting something, of saying something true. It’s magic.

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