I've written two poetry collections, Ghost of the Fisher Cat (Salmon Poetry, 2016), and The lucky star of hidden things (2012), both of which have been translated into Italian and published by L’Arcolaio. A surrealist chapbook, titled Invisible, Insane, was published by SurVision, in 2019. A hybrid, auto-fictional childhood memoir, Tied to the Wind, is due out with Broken Sleep Books in 2021. I am a freelance mentor, editor and reviewer for the Dublin Review of Books and the Irish Examiner. I facilitate poetry workshops and am also a consultant with The Inkwell Group. I am also a mentor in association with the Munster Literature Centre. More about my online courses here: www.africmcglinchey.com
I read and write a lot, frequently circling back to an obsession about migration / dislocation / identity and place, and also about the ‘place’ of nature being disrupted or brutalized by us, and how it resists. My work has been translated into five languages and widely anthologized. It has also won several prizes, including the Hennessy poetry award, two Arts bursaries, a Faber Fellowship and selection for an Italo-Irish Literature Exchange, as well as Pushcart and Forward nominations. Recently, I was commissioned to write a poem for the Breast Check Clinic in Cork and also for the Irish Composers' Collective. My work has been broadcast on Lyric FM’s Poetry File, on RTE’s Poetry Programme, Arena, Live FM, Radio Coventry, and on The Poetry Jukebox in Belfast. I have read at the Poetry Africa Festival, and the Harare International Festival of the Arts, as well as numerous other festivals and venues in Italy, France, the USA, England and Ireland.
I have an addiction to buying books and half of those in my possession are still unread. There must be a word for that!
My twitter handle is @itosha.
I thought I’d collect a selection of the reviews and interviews I’ve been privileged to receive to date for my recent memoir, Tied to the Wind. I’m posting the full endorsements I received from authors and poets I admire. For reasons of space, only extracts from these endorsements could be included in the book.
Tied to the Wind, is a whirlwind epic of a young Irish girl coming of age – set primarily against a wild and expansive African landscape and the War of Independence in Zimbabwe.
This is a romantic yet brutal world, where alcohol-fuelled oversight can sometimes blur the lines between childhood freedom and unintentional neglect.
The hugely attractive and magical power of Afric McGlinchey’s writing is found in the clarity of her storytelling. The tight weave of this colourful and complex tapestry cuts right to the marrow of the life, love, pain, aspiration and disillusion of a family united in love, yet torn in all directions by culture, career and geographical location.
Afric McGlinchey’s Tied To The Wind is powerful, insightful and fascinating. Through the innocent lens of a child’s point of view, she explores the failures of adults without judgement or recrimination, and learns from her father that failure is but an opportunity to begin again – offering the freedom to set out on a new adventure.
The narrative ultimately reaches a personal redemption when we meet her and her cousin Freya, both young women, living the life, having fun, penniless and busking in Paris – feet firmly on the ground and tacking into the wind. Absolutely wonderful. – Cónal Creedon
Afric McGlinchey is a poet of memory, of migration, of displacement, but also of childhood and of love. Tied to the Wind portrays a life lived between Ireland and Africa depicted in searingly beautiful prose, as sharp and as poignant as black and white photographs. I loved it. – William Wall (author of Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade, Doire Press)
I’ve had a truly lovely experience with Tied to the Wind. It’s a book of intense sensations, and kaleidoscopic atmosphere. I could almost feel its heat, smell its exotic fragrances, hear its gentle sounds. It was beautiful, poignant, and transporting. I finished it last night by the fire, and already I miss it. – Sara Baume (author of Handiwork, Tramp Press)
I loved Afric McGlinchey’s lyrical and haunting memoir Tied to the Wind. Simultaneously intimate and epic, McGlinchey’s search for belonging voyages the reader through a sequence of unforgettable landscapes, braiding beauty and challenge into an unforgettable book that lingers long in the reader’s heart. – Grace Wells (author of Fur, Dedalus Press)
Afric McGlinchey has written a memoir with prose poetry as her medium; the past returns in waves of memorable, poignant images, where love is challenged, and home is ever in question. Where to be, how to be and how to love are the kinds of questions Tied to the Wind asks; it’s a courageous and moving piece of work. – Paul Perry (author of the Garden, New Island Press)
Exquisite – a beautifully-written, lyrical charm. – Paul McMahon (author of The Pups in the Bog, an Abbey Theatre production)
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 (author of Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland, New Island Press)
Here’s a piece I wrote for The Irish Times about the process of writing Tied to the Wind:
Bringing my mother back to life
Afric McGlinchey on writing her memoir Tied to the Wind to pin down her past
Mon, Jan 3, 2022, 06:42Afric McGlinchey
Aifric McGlinchey: “I had to be the agent of my own story, not merely a witness to other lives.”
The compulsion to write a memoir began to overwhelm me, particularly after my mother died. (She had early-onset dementia and I was afraid it might happen to me too.)
If some memories have dissolved, others have retained their significance. I wanted to explore why these, why not others. I haven’t relied on journals and diaries – all of them were lost over the course of our family’s many moves. So these are the memories that came along with me, as part of my psychological baggage. I have included occasional interjections by my father and siblings, to highlight my fallibility as a narrator, and to suggest that their perspectives might have produced an entirely different story.
Of course, I wanted to get my hands on as many memoirs as I could to research ways of entering the narrative, but was concerned that this would have a distorting influence; I might adapt them, and accept words and concepts that would cause my to stray from my own intuitive direction. Also, while others might strive for constraint, my personal mission was to rescue exaggeration, not to write reasonably. Drama has been a key factor in my upbringing, and I’m told I can be quite melodramatic myself.
I was the peace-maker in my volatile family, and a people-pleaser. In writing my auto-fictional memoir, I discovered that I had also become a master of dissociation as a coping mechanism.
As children, my siblings and I had to become accustomed to moving, and with each move, to experience losses and separations. The result of such a peripatetic life is either not to become attached at all, or conversely, to dive in deeply as quickly as possible, to extract maximum emotional value, before you are wrenched away. And the way to people’s hearts, I discovered, was through our family stories, many of them growing taller and taller with each re-telling.
When it came to writing this memoir, I couldn’t be absolutely certain about what was true and what was exaggerated. Which is why the memoir has been cast as auto-fiction. This gave me the freedom to change names (for protection), and to converge memories. I have also altered the chronological sequence for two reasons: because I can’t precisely remember dates, and also for narrative convenience.
But why publish at all?
The public reason is that I was awarded an Arts Council Literature Bursary and felt the need to produce a result. A more private reason is that I also wanted to bring my mother back to life. I was a daddy’s girl and didn’t know my mother well. I wanted to ‘find’ her, and by osmosis, learn something about myself too. Also, I never had closure with her. There were things we both needed to forgive. I wanted to revive her so I could love and honour her more.
And there’s a third reason. When I met the Limerick-born poet Desmond O’Grady in Kinsale, where he was living at the same time as me, he repeatedly offered this advice: ‘live a life. Leave a record.’ And that made an impact on me.
In the end, I had far too much material. I found that by breaking down the stories into micro-memories, and treating them as prose poems, I could apply my editing skills as a poet and keep cutting until each took up no more than a page.
Many of the memories relate to stories my father told us over the years, and to things that happened to my brother, to my mother. But Alan Heathcock, an American writer whose workshop I attended, advised me that I had to be the agent of my own story, not merely a witness to other lives. I had to be the actor – find my own acts.
I am conscious that happiness ‘writes white’. But still, when I looked at my narrative more closely, I was shocked: why were the strongest personal experiences based around anger, embarrassment, shame, guilt? Why did my childhood identity seem to be primarily bound up with the concept of fear?
And then I realised something. It was my fears that made me an agent in my own life; that drove me to act.
That revelation led me to focusing my narrative around a single event – the first completely independent act of my life. A parachute jump.
It was to be a defining moment. It would liberate me from my fears. It would change my life.
And it did. During the landing, I fractured four vertebrae, and was lucky to survive. For the first fortnight, the doctors believed I would be paralysed from the waist down. I was incarcerated in hospital for a long time. And during that time, I began to write.
So yes, the jump did change my life. I’ve become a writer as a result of that single mad act. Thank you for helping me to realise that, Alan Heathcock.
The narrative is interspersed with a series of flashes forward to that jump.
So far, the wind has carried me to a certain height, from which I have had a whole new perspective. I trust and hope it will continue to offer a soft landing. Tied to the Wind by Afric McGlinchey is published by Broken Sleep Booksand is also available as an ebook.
Here’s a link to an interview for OUT FROM THE CITY (interview by Leah Mulcahy):
Here’s an interview with the author Nikki Dudley for her blog:
Thanks for agreeing to appear in my newsletter / on my blog.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your writing?
I live with my partner, an artist and poet, by the sea in a remote part of West Cork. I’m a book editor, reviewer, workshop facilitator and mentor. So my life is all about the written word. When I’m not working, I’m reading other stuff and writing, walking and swimming. Lockdown has been easy for us, as not much about our life has changed.
In terms of my writing habits, I don’t have a set rhythm or ritual, although I’m more likely to write in the morning. I hate the idea of being pigeon-holed, although there’s not much chance of that anyway, as I’ve lived a pretty nomadic life, and don’t really fit into any of the Irish boxes. All I ask of myself is that every new book I write has a freshness to it, a new angle, different from my earlier work. Of course, one’s writing style or ‘voice’ is always going to be identifiable, like handwriting. No getting away from that!
Q: Which book/s have you read at least 3 times?
Well, I’ve read King Lear – my favourite Shakespeare play – at least six times, but as that was for study, maybe it doesn’t count? Sylvia Plath’s Ariel poems, because I wrote my thesis on her work. Recently, I read the Canadian poet, Eva H.D.’s début, Perfect Rotten Mouth several times. Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. Oh, and Amy Leach’s Things that Are. But I am such a bibliophile that usually I get to read a book only once or maybe twice, because there are so many tantalising others queued up, waiting.
Q: Is there a writer you would love to meet? Who and why?
Impossible question! So many writers, so many reasons! Maybe James Joyce – a very complex character, probably fun when he was drinking. Because even though he was supremely selfish, his self-belief and his gigantic vision, intellect and ambition were spectacular – as well as his ability to win patrons, his courage, impulsiveness and sense of adventure, his ability to absorb languages the way you absorb a tan in the sunshine. Joyce reminds me of my charismatic, alcoholic, musical, self-absorbed, adventurous father, whom I adored.
Q: What’s your least favourite part of the writing process?
Having to promote a new book. Although I do enjoy readings if there’s another poet reading with me. Much less pressure!
Q: Which fictional character would you invite for a drink and what do you think you’d discuss?
I’d like to invite both Sugar and Agnes from Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. It was agony reading about Agnes’s continuing ingnorance of sexual matters, even periods, and I’d love to have a heart-to-heart with both of them about being women in those Victorian times, sharing with them how it is these days, discussing the dynamics between men and women then and now.
Q: How would you describe your writing style? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you write everyday or whenever the moment strikes you?
A pantser. I binge write at first. Once the bones of a book are in place though, strategy comes into it.
Q: What advice would you give a new writer?
Seek out a mentor. Make friends with your local librarian, and request books. Read, read, read, not just Irish, but international writers, and outside your own genre too. Only submit poems you’re proud of to journals you admire (if you can’t afford to subscribe to them, you can access them in good libraries, or online). Always wait at least a month after writing a poem before sending it anywhere, because hopefully you’ll continue editing and improving it. Submit regularly to New Irish Writing and enter competitions.
Q: What inspires you?
The sea. Swimming. The natural world. Dinner party conversations with good friends. Music. Art. Movies. New places. Flying. Love. Reading.
Q: Which words/phrases do you overuse in your writing?
Honestly not sure. Just did a check on Wordcounter and the repeated words in an extended piece I’ve just written are: wind, light, sea, body. You can see where I’ve been spending lockdown!
Q: Tell us about your latest work.
It’s called Tied to the Wind, and is an auto-fictional account of my nomadic childhood. My family moved back and forth between Ireland and Southern Africa, so it was difficult to attach, latch on, to have a sense of belonging. I wanted to re-enter that childhood space, to relive those moments. So I wrote in the present tense, with no advantage of enlightened adult hindsight. I wanted to meet the child I was, and get a sense of her and her perceptions. The I, in the story, is called Itosha. That distancing helped.
The constant moving triggers a sense of destabilisation, exacerbated by my father’s alcoholism, racism, war and the conflicts of complicit colonial privilege. Interwoven into the narrative are flash-forward puzzle pieces of a fateful decision to undertake a skydive, despite Itosha’s fear of heights. She wanted to shock everyone, including herself, to be an agent in her own life. And that impulsive act backfires. But she does learn something too.
I intended the narrative to be in the form of prose poems, but some critic is bound to argue that it’s no such thing. Of course, it depends on how you define a prose poem. I read the Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, and the diversity of those poems is exhilarating. I also read Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – another one I’ve read a few times! My story isn’t as lyrically ‘heightened’ as that. But if I define a prose poem as having a certain compression, an atmosphere, as having its own entity, who’s to contradict me?
Q: Where can we find out more about you and/or your book?
Here’s a link my book on the Broken Sleep Books website, where you can order the book:
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, 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 Da Yanhe, 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)
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.
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
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,
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.