Antonio Porchia on Nothing

In 1943, Argentinean poet Antonio Porchia published Voices in a small private edition, and expanded it in 1947—his only book. The book collects hundreds of the author’s poignant and timeless aphorisms, but they are considered so poetic that Porchia is not referred to as a nonfiction writer but as a poet. His book has gained a cult following and has since been published in many editions and translated into several languages, notably into English by W. S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press, 2003, available on Amazon). For a deeper dive into the following and other aphorisms, please see “Poems About Nothing: Learning Haiku from Antonio Porchia.” See also “The Extraordinary Story of Antonio Porchia” by Vincenzo Villella. The following selected quotations from Merwin’s translation are all about nothing.

“Nothing that is complete breathes.”

“It is when I assent to nothing that I assent to all.”

“Man, when he is merely what he seems to be, is almost nothing.”

“He who tells the truth says almost nothing.”

“Nothing is not only nothing. It is also our prison.”

“Nothing—it is said of this, of that, of almost everything. Only it is never said of nothing.”

“Only a few arrive at nothing, because the way is long.”

“You have nothing and you want to give me a world. I owe you a world.”

“And if man were good, his goodness would be the same as nothing. For it would cost him nothing.”

“If those who owe us nothing gave us nothing, how poor we would be.”

“When I have nothing left, I will ask for no more.”

“Every time I wake I understand how easy it is to be nothing.”

“A full heart has room for everything, and an empty heart has room for nothing. Who understands?”

“When I believe in nothing, I do not want to meet you when you believe in nothing.”

“Everything is nothing, but afterwards. After having suffered everything.”