Well, it was as expected, it was an emotional launch last evening, at Chris Agee's reading from Next to Nothing, from Salt Publishing. Even the weather seemed to suit the sombre mood, being close and rainy.
John F. Deane, gave a very considered, close reading of the text, as an introduction to the reading and then Chris Agee read from Next to Nothing. The collection's pretext is that it records a parent's grief after the death of a beloved small child. And the only poem in the collection written before this incident is "At Bethlehem Nursery," a gorgeous poem set on a morning when there's been a very hard frost and the narrator is taking the child to playschool. It opens the book and it also opened the reading last night.
Most of the poems are dated, so that the reader can trace the trajectory of grief. I listened with attention as Chris read from them, but was particularly taken by the brief slips of poems in the sequence, "Heartscapes." They are the very distilation of the moments they describe, no more and no less heartrending for what they represent.
I know that Chris did falter once or twice reading last night showing even now, how making a piece of art like this helps to keep the evocation of his daughter, Miriam, still fresh to mind. I spoke to Chris afterwards, while he signed the copies I purchased, and he told me that every reading is different, he doesn't know when he might get a catch in the throat. It is a brave thing to take on something so close and set it into art like this, constantly re-evoking the spirit of someone so loved, so gone. It is a fine book, with the poems pared right back - no sloppy emotional sensationalism: the poems do what they should and evoke the emotion in the reader.
Here is one small example from the Heartscapes section:
of small details.