Ismene’s Survivable Resistance


Isemenes Survivable Resistane_bookcover

In this fourth major poetry collection, Claire Gaskin re-envisions the myth of Antigone by focusing on her sister Ismene. Assuming the voice of a contemporary Ismene, she asks us to consider what survivable resistance might look like for those who live on after tragedy? What kind of avenues are available to resist autocratic and patriarchal structures of power? How might we imagine a future that is different to our past and instigate real change at both a personal and public level? Ismene’s accommodation of and respect for difference is privileged in these poems, as is her credo of care in situations that seem overwhelmingly difficult or impossible: ‘remember those who love you love you still’. The poems identify and expose inner and outer silencing devices and refuse to be silenced. Powerfully evocative and cumulative in its reflective intensity, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance demonstrates how creative engagement can enable connections between the seemingly fragmentary and how poetic form not only provides a crucial means to hear those who have survived abuses of power but can also be the vehicle for change.



Praise for Ismene’s Survivable Resistance

[…] As in Eurydice Speaks, Gaskin assumes the voice of the voiceless in a contemporary setting. Here Ismene is a poet grappling with her traumatic past. The reader of her poems is in the position of witness. 

These are poems of memory and survival brought to life through beguiling lyric and dramatic telling. They bring a way of living, thinking, feeling and seeing in the aftermath of trauma into immediate focus and deliver emotional depth and resonance. Indeed, Claire Gaskin writes knowingly about life and not life, love and not love. She homes in on the importance of things that bring a family together and tear them apart […]

– Dominique Hecq, Rochford Street Review (Read full review here)

Antigone is the emblematic heroic female who rejects structures of authority that would silence her. In Ismene’s Survivable Resistance, Claire Gaskin focuses on Antigone’s sister and what it means to live on in the face of trauma. Poetry, as her new collection powerfully demonstrates, provides an alternative means to exist in the present state. At once clarion call and nuanced testing of the limits of language, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance reworks the boundaries between the personal and the public. Its poems explore a claiming of self that challenges social containment, building new configurations of knowledge, creativity, and presence. To read Ismene’s Survivable Resistance is to feel the world and its histories anew but also, importantly, to begin the work of tomorrow.     

– Ann Vickery

This fearless, fearful book reanimates Ismene, Antigone’s unheard surviving sister, in the name of the abused: ‘everyone dead or worse not dead’. Through embodied poesis, Ismene/Gaskin forensically uncovers ‘the bone on bone of marginalia/where thought meets movement’, guiding us from ‘cross hatched early life’ through ‘a life time of refusal’ to arrive at ‘a sense of a living self’, ‘not either side but in-between’. Testament to the power of working through trauma in poetic form, of sustained writing-reading-listening, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance invites us into a ‘space for exchange’, ‘both all nothing neither’, on her own authority: ‘I open the curtains to the forgiving page’, ‘the fourth wall dismantled’.

– Kate Lilley

[…] Gaskin’s work is skilful repetition, where images or partial phrases are repeated or semi-repeated several pages on, images and phrases so uniquely fulfilled that the repetition is not only recognisable, it’s haunting. ‘A muddy pond of tea’ in ‘Ismene thirsts’ recurs in ‘brothers’: ‘fat drops of rain resounding in my pond of tea’ […] Even less obvious but just as powerful is the repetition of throats, which are important for voicing stories, and so fragile the mere mention might evoke a strangling […] This book, full of repetition and slight variations of repetition – as is memory – highlights Gaskin’s editing prowess from single poem to linked poems to whole-of-work.

– Heather Taylor-Johnson (Read full review here)