Thanks to all who braved the January ice, for Irish-American poet Chris Agee’s masterclass at the CCA; it was an incredibly intimate and moving evening.
Chris began with a poignant slideshow of his life in twelve photographs; from his childhood in New England, to his student days at Harvard; from meetings with Seamus Heaney and Robert Lowell, through to working summers in Ireland as a hotel pot washer; and finally, on to archaeological digs in the West Bank, Bosnia, Croatia, Sarajevo, and Srebrenica, before witnessing first hand the war crimes tribunals at The Hague. Put simply – a dynamic and varied life.
But the tragic loss of his young daughter Miriam dominates the poetic output of the latter half of Chris’s life, and one senses that every public reading takes its toll. Writing harnesses some power of healing – even for the unhealable. And in Chris’s finest work, he fuses the personal with the universal to find resonance within himself for all the multitude of senseless horrors that war and misunderstanding wreak upon the world.
Chris’s earlier “leaf and bug school” poetry has matured to a deep interest in sparse minimalism and Japonist “micro poems” (which place disparate thoughts together, in the process of “parataxis”, to elicit new meanings). His vast range of intellectual preoccupations and rigorous philosophical analysis of the art of poem-making resulted in an electrifying night – bringing new ways of seeing and saying, as well as providing much to reflect on towards our own work.