FREE Poetry Film Competition


Here’s O’Bhéal’s lovely little poetry film competition that I URGE you to support. The competition is FREE! You have about eight weeks before the deadline. Why not have a go at portraying your poem – or someone else’s – visually?

Here’s the blurb on their website:
2018 is Ó Bhéal’s ninth year screening International poetry-films, and sixth year featuring this competition. Up to thirty films will be shortlisted and screened during the festival in October. One winner will receive the Indie Cork / Ó Bhéal prize for best Poetry-Film.

The festival takes place between the dates of the 7th and the 14th October, 2018.
Entry is free to anyone, and should be made via email to poetryfilm [at] – including the following info in an attached word document:
• Name and duration of Film
• Name of director
• Country of origin
• Contact details
• Name of Poet
• Name of Poem
• Synopsis
• Filmmaker biography
• and a Link to download a high-resolution version of the film.

You may submit as many entries as you like. Films must interpret, or convey a poem which must be present in its entirety, having been completed no earlier than August 2016. They may not exceed 10 minutes in duration. Non-English language films will require English subtitles. The final shortlist will be announced here during September.

Shortlisted films also appear in Ó Bhéal’s poetry-film touring programme, at a number of film and literary festivals, to date including the Clare Island Film Festival, Belfast Film Festival, Stanzas in Limerick, the Cyclops festival in Kiev, Poemaria in Vigo and at the Madeira Literary Festival (2018). Shortlisted entries are also screened throughout the year from Ó Bhéal’s competition shortlist archive (in random), at the start of each Ó Bhéal poetry evening.
This year’s entries are judged by filmaker Oonagh Kearney and poet Anamaria Crowe Serrano.
The submission deadline is August 15th, 2018.

A Journalist in uMlazi by Nick Mulgrew

(Warning: This is a triggering poem.)

He was a journalist for ten years. During his training,
he was sent to uMlazi D Section. It was raining.
With mentor and broken Zulu he searched on the roadside
for anyone who knew of a girl who had been raped
by a man in the dark in a bush by the path by the stream.

He couldn’t believe he would find that girl. He’d had a dream
his work might be meaningful; but there might be no meaning
in the diagonal world of green and mist and keening
people, who stared at him like the interloper he was.
Hubristic boy, stunned sun-god caught with his ear in the conch.

The first person he spoke to, though, stood right next to the girl.
The second person he spoke to was the girl. But which girl?
the girl asked. There were five girls, in fact, with eight-ball eyes each,
each wandering this neighbourhood in their mauve matric hoodies.
They’d each been attacked on their way home from extra classes.

She took a maze of paths, showed him the dent in the grasses.
Yes, this is where it happened, she said, unable to blink
away tears from swelling, and welling she began to shrink
within herself. The journalist nodded, wrote in shorthand;
in his best impression of someone who could understand.

The girl said she knew who he was. They all knew who he was.
Yes, he’d raped at least five girls her age. They knew who he was.
She had told laughing policewomen. They knew who he was.
The journalist asked, therefore, if could he write who he was.
No—due to legal reasons, he would not write who he was.

He was a journalist for ten years. This was his first day.
His mother picked him up from work; the next she did the same.

Da Yanhe — My Wet Nurse

Da Yanhe, is my wet nurse. Her name is the name of her village where she was born, She is a childbride, Da Yanhe, is my wet nurse.
I am a landlord’s son; I am also Da Yanhe’s son Who has brought me up by breastfeeding me. Da Yanhe raises her family by raising me, And I have been raised by drinking your milk, Da Yanhe, my wet nurse.
Da Yanhe, the snow today reminds me of you: Your grass-covered grave covered with snow, Your withered tile-plant on the eaves of your closed house, Your plot of land of ten square chi mortgaged, Your stone bench grown with moss before your house, Da Yanhe, the snow I see today reminds me of you.
You embraced me in your arms and stroked me with your large hands; After you had the burning faggots ready, After you cleaned the soot on your apron, After you tasted whether the rice was well cooked, After you placed the dark sauce-bowl on the dark table, After you mended your sons’ clothes torn by thorns on the mountains, After you wrapped your youngest son’s hand wounded by a faggot-knife, After you nipped the lice one by one on your husband’s and sons’ clothes, After you picked up the first egg today, You embraced me in your arms and stroked me with your large hands.
I am a landlord’s son; After I had sulked all milk of you Da Yanhe, I was taken back to my own home by my parents. Alas! Da Yanhe, why did you weep?
I was now a new member of my own parents’ family! I felt the lacquered and cared furniture, I felt the golden patterns of the bed of my parents, I gazed at the board inscribed with Tianlunxule which I did not understand on the eaves, I felt the silk and pearly buttons of the new clothes I began to wear, I watched my strange sister in the arms of my mother, I sat on the lacquered bench equipped with a bowl of cinder, I ate the rice rolled for three times, But, I felt so strange and upset! Because I I was now a new member of my own parents’ family.
To make a living, Da Yanhe Started laboring with her arms that used to embrace me After she had used up her breast-milk; With a smile, she washed our clothes, With a smile, she went to the nearby pool with a basket of vegetables, With a smile, she minced the ice-covered radish, With a smile, she drew out the wheat dregs for pig food with her hands, With a smile, she fanned the fire in the stove on which pork was stewed, With a smile, she took the winnowing fan to the threshing ground      To insolate those beans and wheat, To make a living, Da Yanhe Started laboring with her arms that used to embrace me After she had used up her breast-milk.
Da Yanhe, deeply loved this son she breastfed; On festivals, for him, she busied herself cutting the sugared rice-lump, For him to stealthily visit her home near the village, For him to call her “ma” at her side, Da Yanhe put up the portrait of Guan Yunchang painted in fabulous color      On the wall of her kitchen,Da Yanhe would praise this son she breastfed to her neighborhood; Da Yanhe had a dream which couldn’t be told to others: In her dream, she enjoyed the wedding wine of her breastfed son, Sitting in the hall brilliant with red lanterns, She was dearly called “Ma” by her beautiful new daughter-in-law,………

Da Yanhe, deeply loved this son she breastfed! Da Yanhe died before she woke up from her dream. When she died, her breastfed son was not by her side, When she died, her husband who beat and criticized her also shed tears for her, Her own five sons, each in tears, When she died, she gently called her breastfed son’s name, Da Yanhe, has died, When she died, her breastfed son was not by her side.
Da Yanhe, gone in tears! With the insult of human life for some forty years, With numerous sufferings of being a slave, With a coffin bought with four yuan and some bunches of rice stalks, With some square feet of burial place, With a handful of money-ashes, Da Yanhe, she was gone in tears.
And this is what Da Yanhe did not know: Her drunken husband had died, Her first son became a bandit, Her second died in the smoke of gun-fire, And her third, fourth and fifth sons Living in the scolding of their masters or landlords. And I, I am writing a curse for this unjust world. When I return to my homeland after long drift, In the waist of the mountain and in the field, We feel closer than six or seven years ago when we brothers meet! This, this is for you, Da Yanhe in slumber You do not know this!
Da Yanhe, your breastfed son in prison today,Is writing a psalm for you, For your soul underground, For your outstretched hands that embraced me, For your lips that kissed me, For your dark and mild face, For your breasts that raised me, For your sons, my brothers, For all wet nurses like Da Yanhe and their sons On this vast land, For Da Yanhe who loved me as she loved her own sons.
Da Yanhe, I am your son Brought up by sulking your breast-milk, I respect you And love you!

Ai Qing (1910—1996), originally named Jiang Haicheng, was a native of Jinhua County, Zhejiang Province. In 1928, he was enrolled in the state-run West Lake Art School. In the next year, he went to study inParis, France. In 1932, he returned to China, and joined China’s Federation of the Leftwing Fine Artists. In the July of the same year, he was arrested. He was freed in 1935. he went to Yan’an in 1941. he was the editor-in-chief of The Poetic Journal (Yan’an edition). After 1949, he was deputy editor-in-chief of People’s Literature, vice chairman of Chinese Writers’ Association, vice president of the Center of Chinese Writingand a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. His major works include DYanhe, Towards the Sun, Torch, He Died in the Second Try, North, The Notice of Dawn, On the Sea Cape, The Song of Return, and Selected Poems of Ai Qing (collections of poems), etc. he was also the author the monographs On Poetics and Essays on New Art and Literature. His poems have been translated into dozens of foreign languages.                                                            (Tr. by Yang Xu)

Autumn by Adam Zagajewski


Autumn is always too early.
The peonies are still blooming, bees   
are still working out ideal states,
and the cold bayonets of autumn   
suddenly glint in the fields and the wind

What is its origin? Why should it destroy   
dreams, arbors, memories?
The alien enters the hushed woods,   
anger advancing, insinuating plague;   
woodsmoke, the raucous howls
of Tatars.

Autumn rips away leaves, names,   
fruit, it covers the borders and paths,   
extinguishes lamps and tapers; young   
autumn, lips purpled, embraces   
mortal creatures, stealing
their existence.

Sap flows, sacrificed blood,
wine, oil, wild rivers,
yellow rivers swollen with corpses,
the curse flowing on: mud, lava, avalanche,   

Breathless autumn, racing, blue
knives glinting in her glance.
She scythes names like herbs with her keen   
sickle, merciless in her blaze
and her breath. Anonymous letter, terror,   
Red Army.

In the seventh year by Jackie Kay

Our sea is still mysterious as morning mist

its flapping arms stretched out for dry sand

its running heels sliding over pebbles

when the sun dives in at night

We are turquoise and clear some days

still as a breeze; others story like stones

you are in deep stroking my bones

my love an ache, the early light

spreading the water

seven years seven years I repeat

over and over

clasping this timeless, this changing thing.

Someone asked for a brief analysis of this poem: I see it as a love poem to ‘Louise’, where the sea is perceived as a body with ‘flapping arms’ and ‘running heels’. The lovers are compared to the ocean: ‘we are turquoise and clear some days…’. It’s a poem that describes the physical act of making love: ‘you are in deep, stroking my bones’, and we get the sense that this is an anniversary: ‘seven years seven years’. The images flow into each other, so ‘this timeless, this changing thing’ could be seen to refer both to the beloved, Louise, and also to the nature of love itself. It’s a poem worth rereading over and over for the beautiful way the sea and their love overlap.

No Need

Sad to see that my début collection, The lucky star of hidden things (which was reprinted three times) is sold out and no longer on the Salmon Poetry site. Recently I was contacted by a Spanish translator for permission to post her translation of one of my poems. Honoured, of course, as I always am by translators who attentively trace the energy and tone of a poet’s language, and from the original poem, create one of their own. This is the poem she chose to translate:

No need to tell me 

that endings

are a moment of transcendence,

and all that is solid        melts into air;

no need to remind me 

of the eyeblink tales of life,

like furniture and fridge snacks that stack up, 

then vanish in a flame-lick.

No need to challenge me 

to walk the high wire,

or to drag me to a party with all the wrong people,

where men take up space with knuckles on hips,

and there’s barely elbow room.

No need to show me 

I’m in safe hands – 

I’ve seen your scar 

and know what you’re made of.

No need for you to hold up 

a cardboard cut-out sun:

I remember how it looks, how it feels.

Or to suggest 

that I’m more stone than heart:

what do you expect?

I’m still  half a couple from ark days

pickling memories in a jar.

No need to say 

that love will return some day 

like speech after long silence;

that’s    dirty talk.

Here’s a link to Victoria Principi’s translation:

Tied to the Wind

So, my next book has gone to the printers! It’s a hybrid in terms of genre, and my biggest book yet, at 327 pages. Here’s a lovely endorsement from Mia Gallagher:

Afric McGlinchey’s long-form debut steals beguilingly across the spiderweb between poetry, memoir and novel, offering an exquisitely rendered narrative of a young, hurting, growing life. Lush, sensitive, harrowing, gloriously written. 
   — Mia Gallagher, Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland

And here’s a blurb, for more of an inkling:

Tied to the Wind doesn’t pretend to present a cohesive picture of a life. It’s an auto-fictional rendering of a childhood, where the Irish-born protagonist (named Itosha) finds her family moving  to, and then from, Zambian sunshine, to a situation of financial deprivation back in Ireland, followed by a change in fortunes, then another move to war-torn pre-independent Zimbabwe. Context is slowly drip-fed through fragments. But the implicit impressions concerning power and privilege reveal the complexities faced by this infuriatingly passive half-innocent trying to understand something of the world she inhabits.

If anyone would like to review it, please get hold of me. Meanwhile, it’s available for pre-order here:

Hum, Hum by Mary Oliver

One summer afternoon I heard
a looming, mysterious hum
high in the air; then came something

like a small planet flying past –

not at all interested in me but on its own
way somewhere, all anointed with excitement:
bees, swarming,

not to be held back.

Nothing could hold them back.

Gannets diving.
Black snake wrapped in a tree, our eyes

The grass singing
as it sipped up the summer rain.
The owl in the darkness, that good darkness
under the stars.

The child that was myself, that kept running away
to the also running creek, 
to colt’s foot and trilliams,
to the effortless prattle of the birds.

You are going to grow up
and in order for that to happen
I am going to have to grow old
and then I will die, and the blame 
will be yours.

He wanted a body
so he took mine.
Some wounds never vanish.

Yet little by little 
I learned to love my life.

Though sometimes I had to run hard –
especially from melancholy –

not to be held back.

I think there ought to be 
a little music here:
hum, hum.

The resurrection of the morning.
The mystery of the night.
The hummingbird’s wings.
The excitement of thunder.
The rainbow in the waterfall.
Wild mustard, that rough blaze of the fields.

The mockingbird, replaying the songs of his 
The bluebird with its unambitious warble
simple yet sufficient.

The shining fish. The beak of the crow.
The new colt who came to me and leaned
against the fence
that I might put my hands upon his warm body
and know no fear.

Also the words of poets
a hundred or hundreds of years dead — 
their words that would not be held back.

Oh the house of denial has thick walls
and very small windows
and whoever lives there, little by little,
will turn to stone.

In those years I did everything I could do 
and I did it in the dark –
I mean, without understanding.

I ran away.
I ran away again.
Then, again, I ran away.

They were awfully little, those bees,
and maybe frightened,
yet unstoppably they flew on, somewhere,
to live their life.

Hum, hum, hum

Aristotle by Billy Collins

This is the beginning. 
Almost anything can happen. 
This is where you find 
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land, 
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page. 
Think of an egg, the letter A, 
a woman ironing on a bare stage 
as the heavy curtain rises. 
This is the very beginning. 
The first-person narrator introduces himself, 
tells us about his lineage. 
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings. 
Here the climbers are studying a map 
or pulling on their long woolen socks. 
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn. 
The profile of an animal is being smeared 
on the wall of a cave, 
and you have not yet learned to crawl. 
This is the opening, the gambit, 
a pawn moving forward an inch. 
This is your first night with her, 
your first night without her. 
This is the first part 
where the wheels begin to turn, 
where the elevator begins its ascent, 
before the doors lurch apart.

This is the middle. 
Things have had time to get complicated, 
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore. 
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers 
teeming with people at cross-purposes— 
a million schemes, a million wild looks. 
Disappointment unshoulders his knapsack 
here and pitches his ragged tent. 
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals, 
where the action suddenly reverses 
or swerves off in an outrageous direction. 
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph 
to why Miriam does not want Edward’s child. 
Someone hides a letter under a pillow. 
Here the aria rises to a pitch, 
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge. 
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge 
halfway up the mountain. 
This is the bridge, the painful modulation. 
This is the thick of things. 
So much is crowded into the middle— 
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avocados, 
Russian uniforms, noisy parties, 
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall— 
too much to name, too much to think about.

And this is the end, 
the car running out of road, 
the river losing its name in an ocean, 
the long nose of the photographed horse 
touching the white electronic line. 
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade, 
the empty wheelchair, 
and pigeons floating down in the evening. 
Here the stage is littered with bodies, 
the narrator leads the characters to their cells, 
and the climbers are in their graves. 
It is me hitting the period 
and you closing the book. 
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen 
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck. 
This is the final bit 
thinning away to nothing. 
This is the end, according to Aristotle, 
what we have all been waiting for, 
what everything comes down to, 
the destination we cannot help imagining, 
a streak of light in the sky, 
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.

The Island, a Prospect by Paula Meehan

We learned that Ireland was a temperate island
from our first geography books, the climate mild,
the gulf stream a blessing that saved us from freezing
though we live at the same latitude as Moscow.
And the child I was found that word disappointing,
no earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, volcanoes, floods.
Temperate! A dreary wet city Sunday sound.
I took to astral travel out the school window,
lift-off on the storied wings of myth and legend,
and bitter tales of landlords and emigration,
of plantation, rebellion, famine and ruin.
They offered us a trope of the traumatised nation.
They made us feel the land had failed us. They bludgeoned
us with shame, left us lost, fearing our own shadows.
I grew up. I roved out in blue britches of denim.
I walked the roads. I slept in ditches. I fell in love
with a mountain tarn. Its black eye mirrored the stars.
The island took hold of me: ice-sculpted valleys,
glacial erratics, moraine, esker, bog, karst,
her meadows, her rivers; and beamed down from above
Planet Earth – our grave mother as seen from the moon.
The mitochondrial tug of eternity,
that slow pulse of evolutionary regard
from deep within the ancient reptilian brain,
seat of instinct; from such a critical distance,
my neo-aboriginal imagination
must dream new endings, must fashion prophetic words
fearing they’ll not be heard by our posterity.
Can we trust the visions teeming in the hours of trance,
knowing art is toxic (little arrows of guilt!) –
cadmium, chromium, cobalt, magnesium, lead?
To make paper is to make poison, no hand’s clean.
All our craft work, all our magic, this we trade:
for bee music, music of otter, hare, kite, stoat,
the gold-nebbed blackbird’s blissful song of happenstance.
Last week I walked to Feltrim in the pouring rain,
considered the redundant nature of its name –
Faoldroim, from the Irish, means Ridge of the Wolves.
The wolves are long extinct and half gone is the ridge,
(its requiem the thud and blast of explosive)
limestone lorried away to serve that beast, the boom,
the turbo cycle over and over again.
High on Feltrim Hill Nathaniel Hone loved to sketch
Lambay and Ireland’s Eye, the wild coastal fractals;
and Samuel Beckett’s favourite view was downwards
to Saint Ita’s psychiatric hospital
You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that … our human span
an eyeblink. To save the world is not so simple
as to mine an ocean for each salt tear we’ve wept.

Paula Meehan

Why You Should Never Marry a Poet by Heather Bell

Think about it – the way that credit cards, bougainvillea,
vacations, dictionaries, the road on the way to work will

all never be enough. The poet wishes
with her deepest bones
and writes that she wishes
she had killed you

in the supermarket. She wonders why
she ever loved you in song. 

She publishes book after book. Each line detailing
how your hair is ugly and monstrous in the morning. And how,
like moss, you cling to her
so piteously. 

But you marry her anyway.
and she looks like a roar of snow
in white. You figure she will read a poem about you
that day in front of everyone: her throat

is, after all, a stamen
or matchstick. 

But she is silent, says only the I DO’s
and a few Bible verses. 

The poet loves with a most violent
heart. What you have not known-
she has wanted to tell you the truth
all of these years,

but grew silent as an old lover does
at eighty. There is no way to say

how one loves the ache of your cracked lips,
the heavy belly of your tongue, the years she spent
feeling not loved,
but still loving. Think about it-

the poet is fearful of others knowing and finding your mouth.

She is frightened of you –
realizing you could have been
loved better or harder
or with real words.

Previously published in @Tender