Next to Nothing
Next to Nothing records the years following the death of a beloved child in 2001. Though bereft of belief in the poetic outcome compared to the apocalypse of the loss itself (one sense of the title), the fidelity of these poems to the “heartscapes” of grief constitutes, nonetheless, a work of genuine honouring – spare, delicate, and deeply moving.Of the collection in general, Agee has written: “In addition to individual poems and several sequences, Next to Nothing includes a section entitled ‘Heartscapes’, which consists of 59 ‘micro-poems’, as I call them. Many of these are extremely short; most were written during the very bleak and soul-sick year of 2003; and the whole section (with one poem per page) will take no more than thirty minutes to read, and indeed can be read with ease by any general intelligent reader, whatever their familiarity with or experience of poetry. Swiftness of effect was, in fact, part of the intention and fidelity; the challenge here as throughout the book was to record true and deep ‘heart-feeling’ (as opposed to the ‘feeling’ of sensibility, apperception, historical moment, etc.) – that most delicate of poetic material, owing to the swiftness of emotion itself. For once, I think I can say that these poems wrote themselves, in the sense of my being a quite passive amanuensis caught up in pain rather than any sort of instigator – drawing on the habit of technique belonging to what had become a previous life, whilst suddenly also bereft of belief in the poetic outcome compared to the apocalypse of the loss itself – that is to say, the textual as ‘next to nothing’, in several distinct senses, like Matisse’s sparest line-drawings in a sea of blank space …”
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