Glasgow Writer: Chris Agee

chris ageeChris Agee is an American poet, essayist and editor, who is currently the Keith Wright Literary Fellow at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.  In this capacity he teaches classes, although this not not something that his predecessors have traditionally done, and runs workshops with students.  I first became aware of Chris through the very popular series of Literary Lunchtimes, he ran at Cafe Gandolfi and I met him in February, 2014,  when I went along to hear Bernard McLaverty read.  It was a very relaxed and enjoyable event with the writer presenting his work from behind the bar.

Another imaginative enterprise Chris plans to establish in Glasgow is the  Hobsbaum Memorial workshop. His idea is to model this on Philip Hobsbaum’s famous “Groups”, which met in Belfast and Glasgow in the sixties and seventies.  Among those who participated were now famous Irish and Scottish writers, including Bernard McLaverty, Seamus Heaney, Liz Lochhead, Tom Leonard, James Kelman and Alasdair Gray.  Chris expects the workshops to commence in Glasgow in Autumn, 2014.

Additionally Chris is editor of  Irish Pages the biggest literary journal in Ireland, with writing from both Irish writers and writers from overseas. He hopes to increase the popularity of the journal in Scotland.

Biographical Note

 Chris Agee was born in 1956 in San Francisco and grew up in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. He attended Harvard University and since 1979 has lived in Ireland. He is the author of three books of poems, In the New Hampshire Woods (The Dedalus Press, 1992), First Light (The Dedalus Press, 2003) and Next to Nothing (Salt, 2009), as well as the editor of Scar on the Stone: Contemporary Poetry from Bosnia (Bloodaxe, 1998, Poetry Society Recommendation), Unfinished Ireland: Essays on Hubert Butler (Irish Pages, 2003) and The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland (Wake Forest University Press, 2008, and Salt, 2011). A Bosnian translation of Next to Nothing, Gotovo ništa (Buybook, Sarajevo), appeared in 2011. He is completing a collection of essays, Journey to Bosnia. He reviews for The Irish Times and is the Editor of Irish Pages, a journal of contemporary writing based in Belfast. He is currently the Keith Wright Literary Fellow at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. He holds dual Irish and American citizenship, and spends part of each year at his house on Korcula, near Dubrovnik, in Croatia.

Next to Nothing was shortlisted for the 2010 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, funded by the Poet Laureate and organized by the Poetry Society in London.

On Next to Nothing:

“Strong and real and thought-through …

a masterful collection.”

John F. Deane

 

“It is a profound and exceptionally moving book. I haven’t read anything so powerful for a long time. I was left with a sense of both the fragility and the huge importance of the here and now, as well as with an expanded sense of poetry’s capacity.

Hugh Dunkerley, The London Review

 

Next to Nothing chronicles the years after the death of his four-year-old daughter, Miriam Aoife in a series of episodic, technically perfect and pitch-reticent lyrics. For this poet, grief crashes upon the shore of language in three distinct waves: a series of brilliant couplets, a series of minimalist, impressionistic lyrics and a series of more discursive, muscular stanzas. The whole enterprise adds up to something beyond lyric poems … a work that breaks through the barriers of literature to become something more, a palliative journal,

a chronicle of the heroism of lost parenthood, a handbook for the bereaved.”

Thomas McCarthy, The Irish Times

“[It] is the most compelling book of poems I have read for years … a very significant, permanent tribute to Miriam, and representation of her. She joins the son who was Ben Jonson’s best piece of work.”

Bernard O’Donoghue

 

“2009 has given us some terrific poetry, but the book I will remember most from this year is Chris Agee’s Next to Nothing.

A profoundly personal response to the death of Agee’s four-year-old daughter in 2001, Agee’s sparse, careful, disciplined word-choices unite technical brilliance with emotional intensity; the work echoes with a sense of loss, but it is anything but Nothing. In fact, I think, Next to Nothing bears close comparison, in both subject matter and execution, to CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed.

William Crawley, BBC

“Chris Agee’s poems for the death of his young daughter Miriam in Next to Nothing are remarkable not only for their beauty but their control. Gently ironic when friends try to ‘make good’ his loss, Agee’s touch is painstakingly delicate. He imagines his daughter’s presence at a Quaker meeting ‘like light/trembling inside/on the meeting-house’s/ jambs and sills and sashes.’ Astonishing for having been written at all, Next to Nothing is a both a commemoration of his daughter’s life and a masterpiece of elegy, as here in the achingly short ‘Beautiful little violets’: ‘heart-shaped leaves/shamrocks/of deepest mauve/whose time/is brief/but even so/ perennial.’ “

Jane Holland, Poetry Review

 

An Extract from Sebald  by Chris Agee – Next to Nothing, Salt, Cambridge Next to

Sebald
1944–2001
On and off, I had been musing about vistas
Of simultaneity : the continuum between, say,
In a natural sense, fresh graves in Afghanistan
And the abysmal plain on the Marianas Trench
Lit by the spectral traceries of bioluminescence ; or,
In the social, sipping coffee as Srebrenica happened
In waves of twenty-plus. How — at any one time — everything
Is happening in a single world-image like tens of millions
Of words in a Babel of thousands of tongues coexisting
In its archive of consciousness. That interior Friday

 

Christopher Agee, Keith Wright Literary Fellow,
School of Humanities,
16 Richmond Street, Glasgow G1 1XQ

christopher.agee@strath.ac.uk

– See more at: http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/hobsbaum-memorial-workshops/#sthash.aaQPF1Gs.dpuf

 

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