Saturday 16 March 2013

Afric McGlinchey The lucky star of hidden things

The lucky star of hidden things


Afric McGlinchey

Salmon Press, 2012.

Afric McGlinchy's The lucky star of hidden things was published recently by Salmon Press. It is a strong confident collection, and the work of a mature artist  She says that she 'writes for [herself] and has an ongoing love affair with words' and this is manifestly the case in The Lucky Star of Hidden Things. Her poems are often erotically charged and sensual, sometimes with an unexpected comic touch, or a sophisticated awareness of her changing family, and changing roles.  Individual poems have been carefully placed to intimate the journey from Africa to Ireland and from the past to the present. From the opening poem 'Birthstone' to the section entitled 'On the Road' to the final section 'Leaning into Your World' the collection documents both a biographical and and artistic journey. With this in mind I particularly loved the open reference to Molly Bloom in her final poem 'Yes', which seems to promise an earthiness and an exciting creative output in the future. 

(after James Joyce)

… yes and then
I touched my finger to his lips
to stroke away the cider, 
and put it to mine
and our tongues went plunging
- such a lush sweetness -
the grass so springy-soft on the cliff
and the waves crashing below
and I had to catch my breath
and the night's perfume drowned
that tang of lamb
and I thought of my first kiss
- what was his name? Johnny? - yes,
his tongue so unexpected,
wriggling like an eel,
but this time it felt different,
and even his silence didn't matter,
when he stared, stared at my breasts, 
and I let my hair slip loose
like that Cape Town girl, 
and you have moonlight in your eyes, he said
so I took him in my hand
and he whispered, would I
ma petite phalene, he said
and I thought I may as well,
as well him as another,
and the sea was swirling below us in a froth
the sky gorgeous with stars
and I suggested with my eyes
that he ask again
and I knew he would 
and I wondered if I'd say yes
and then I urged him down 
and he found his way
through all my layers
and I might, I thought, yes
I think I will
say yes.

The heat, language, scents and customs of Africa inform each poem in the opening section 'In my dreams I travel home to Africa'. Night Scents in particular combines her experience of Africa with her experience of a broken relationship, acknowledging her own animal instincts and senses as well as her very human anxiety. 

Night Scents

I lie in bed,
turn my nose

to the pillow

your memory,
as visible to my nostrils
as the night lamp.

Curtain ushers in butter -
soaked toast, wide-awake lily,
air before storm;

I sense my way
by pheromone,
as hallucinations spill:

saddle sweat, smack of salt, almond;
twang of diesel, turning milk;
from the boiler, burning fur

and I am back there -
steam-cracking tobacco 
stalks me, steals my sleep.

In the garden
citrus, spice:

like notes on a piano,
closing the flower. 

But it is not just the earthy sensuality which enthrals and seduces her readers. In the first section of her book, McGlinchey's ability to examine the scars of her personal history allows a tension to slowly mount, so that when we encounter the exhilaration of 'Free running', her first poem set in Ireland, we too revel in the freedom which she describes.  Having immersed her reader in the hot climate and the passionate and doomed relationship which finally interrupted  her time in Africa, we can easily identify with the need to 

        … dive, 
        rotate mid-air, 

        a feline, 
        land, leap 
        across bonnets

        side-spin the lamp post
        vault park railings

The central line of this poem reads 'but I'm metamorphic -' and catches beautifully the change of pace and of perspective which she exhibits in the second section of the book. Her ability to orchestrate the emotional reaction to the collection seems very sure footed. None of the poems jarred or seemed out of place and it is difficult to believe that this is a debut collection.   

Jennifer Matthews described McGlinchey's work as 'elemental', 'utterly sensual' and 'raw with emotional honesty'. The poem Girl without a horse for example depicts an almost mythical desire in a young girl's life. In only fifteen short lines she sketches a scene which indicates the importance and passion of the girl's decision. 

Girl without a horse

(for Micaela)

She searches country roads

until she finds one -

beyond the long-roped goat.

He is unbridled wildness,
the shag of his white coat
brazened with muck.

Her hand opens
with an apple core

He shivers, snorts,
bends to the scent.

blood-warmed attention
as she steals to the feast
of his back.

The powerful image of the girl feast[ing] on the experience of being on the horse's back makes it easy, on an initial reading, to miss the 'apple core / invitation' and the echoes of forbidden fruit and so re-reading  the work becomes both essential and a pleasure.  

This collection shows McGlinchey to be a strong, vibrant and exciting new voice in the Irish literary landscape and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

A Hennessy Poetry Award winner, Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Africa. She was also a Pushcart nominee, and highly commended in the Magma, Joy of Sex, and Dromineer poetry competitions in 2012. She is a freelance book editor and reviewer, and tutors poetry online at Her d├ębut poetry collection, The lucky star of hidden things, was published in 2012 by Salmon.  Afric lives in West Cork, Ireland.

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