About Afric McGlinchey

I’m the author of a collection of poetry called Ghost of the Fisher Cat (Salmon Poetry, 2016), and another called The lucky star of hidden things (2012), which was also translated into Italian by Lorenzo Mari and published by L’Arcolaio in 2015. A chapbook, titled Invisible, Insane, was published by the surrealist publishing house, SurVision, in 2019. Currently, I’m writing an auto-fictional prose-poetry childhood memoir, with immense gratitude to the Arts Council of Ireland for their support. I am a freelance mentor, editor and reviewer. I facilitate poetry workshops and sometimes judge competitions. I am also a consultant with The Inkwell Group: http://www.inkwellwriters.ie/people/afric-mcglinchey/ I read and write a lot, always circling back to an obsession about migration / dislocation / identity and place, and more recently 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.

The Mayo Tao by Derek Mahon

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I have abandoned the dream kitchens for a low fire
and a prescriptive literature of the spirit;
a storm snores on the desolate sea.
The nearest shop is four miles away— 
when I walk there through the shambles
of the morning for tea and firelighters
the mountain paces me in a snow-lit silence.
My days are spent in conversation
with deer and blackbirds;
at night fox and badger gather at my door.
I have stood for hours
watching a salmon doze in the tea-gold dark,
for months listening to the sob story
of a stone in the road, the best,
most monotonous sob story I have ever heard.

I am an expert on frost crystals
and the silence of crickets, a confidant
of the stinking shore, the stars in the mud— 
there is an immanence in these things
which drives me, despite my scepticism,
almost to the point of speech,
like sunlight cleaving the lake mist at morning
or when tepid water
runs cold at last from the tap.

I have been working for years
on a four-line poem
about the life of a leaf;
I think it might come out right this winter.

“The Mayo Tao” by Derek Mahon. Text as published in Selected Poems (Penquin Press, 2000), edited by Philippe Jaccotett.

 “Mayo” refers to the County Mayo, in western Ireland.

Art credit: “Keem at Night,” photograph of Keem Strand in County Mayo, taken on February 16, 2010, by Larissa O’Duffy. 

Invisible Insane

One of the possible covers that got rejected…

Invisible Insane, the title given to my new chapbook is Google Translate’s Japanese version of the English proverb: ‘out of sight, out of mind’.  The poems vary widely in theme, always connecting loosely with absences, invisibilities, what is present but ignored or not seen. There is also the capturing of fleeting moments, all the more resonant for the fact that they vanish so swiftly.

The opening poem is a kind of ars poetica, or at least, a poem about influences:  ‘On the side, two tongues’. The poem intentionally destabilises locations, exploding the notion of solidity. The quay is a ‘quay of flames’; the republic, ‘a republic of dreams’. In this dream-world, the first living library is created by a ‘small heir’, while ‘the limping man’ draws ‘tiny counter Xs’ along the ‘quay of flames.’  Domestic items, too, are made strange: ‘preternatural alterities lurk within / furniture, gloomy canopies’ – here again, solid objects acquire some kind of mysticism.

The fluidity of water is suggested throughout: ‘water poured into a vase’, the ‘wavy river’. There is ‘fluid’; there is ‘mingling’.  The poem is hopefully to be viewed, with each re-reading, as a child might ‘plainly see the first day of the world.’

In the second poem, ‘The Green Taste of Youth’ is ‘a summer carousel’, and here again, fire features: ‘horses playing arson, burning stables…’ and there are tongues and fluids too: ‘unlatch your tongue, paint / it with saliva…’ The energy, euphoria and anarchy of further destabilising actions suggest the pleasure of surrealist suggestibility: ‘in the tower, light is bared / and swinging, laughing manically’.

‘Cha’ is a poem inspired by a piece of electronic music composed by Edan Ray:  ‘crossovers smacking up against the wayward torques’, where we are invited to ‘run backwards into all the peripheral stories’. Again, everything is fluid, and the world is one oceanic confluence of light and water. ‘Strobe-light-/fix each gesture…loose-wristed, star-fired, brainless /

with excitement. Cha.’ Here again, energy, playfulness, an awareness of connection.

In the next poem, ‘Human’ the opening image is of someone ‘rolling downhill like a Cuban cigar / in your sleeping bag, to land / jammed up next to mine’. An explosion of images and sensations follow, which might be excessive, only they are justified by the last three lines: ‘Someone or nothing catches / a catacomb of moods. /Glass perhaps, between hallucinations’.

In ‘While the sleepers’, we have, again, tongues, and fire:  ‘The muse in the field / is a pop-up book. / His bed is a tongue / of grass. I am who.’ The speaker talks of placing some of the muse’s ‘dusty fire / over my eyelids’.

While the first poem hints at excavation: ‘at the turn of the untilled field… leave the second stone,/ turn up curios’, in ‘After the Blossoming, Boom’ there is a forensic analysis of ‘post-humous feathers and snouts…heraldic as Godard’. This reference is, of course, to Jean Luc Godard, the film director who is fascinated with the way language shapes our experiences, who defies narrative conventions, who offers unusual examples of social and personal interaction. The poem also honours Sara Baume, author of ‘A Line Made By Walking’, where the protagonist studies dead creatures as art forms.

‘Rabblement’ was inspired by a newspaper article about a Korean woman who committed suicide in a direct provision centre, leaving behind a six year old boy, ‘and now, no amount of wind / will wake the leaves’.

‘More than Skin’ is an ekphrastic written in response to a painting by the broken-bodied Frida Kahlo, where she lies in the bath, where, on the surface of the water fantastical images float,  using her toes to turn the taps: ‘twenty red-tipped / toes – / wings in flight.’

‘Third Law’ refers to the relationships between heat and other forms of energy (mechanical, electrical, chemical) and, by extension, the relationships between all forms of energy. It’s an eco-poem: ‘We are wading up to our knees in toxic water’.  Our planet is a ‘snow globe filling with plutonium, / psychically cracked.’

In ‘Body Notes’, again, there are warnings, aberrations, fire, water, air, earth: ‘Think of the pit; think of descent. / This is otherness. Sometimes / the body whimpers.’  Again, solid objects and locations are destabilised: ‘The room is a suitcase / and does not belong to the doll. / The walls are a swallow of blood.’

‘Living Proof’ is the attempt of an artist to make sense of the world, but the elements she is painting don’t behave: ‘an elongated tree grows outside the frame, thin as vinegar’.

In ‘Particle of Light Through A Raindrop’, there’s a sense of cause and effect: ‘houses are lifted up, then dropped, like crystal’ and the resulting shards ‘cut through memory.’ A longed-for presence is suggested by an absence: ‘If you hold my hand, though I feel it empty, / then rain, landing on earth and soaking it anyway.’

‘A Travelling Country of Windows’ describes a journey, both physical and psychological, along the coastline, towards the north of the speaker’s childhood, ‘where the mattress groaned under/our bouncing feet and feathers flew / from the bolsters, until the creak / of a door, pink glow of the landing wallpaper.’ Into this innocent memory, a silence lunges, ‘tipping its point / like a Damocles sword.’

‘Silver Wings’ is a poem about the anxiety of influence, or of self-identity: ‘you recognise someone saying your name, / and you go right up to the moment, / right up to the third person within you’.

Both a relationship poem and an ars poetica ‘Whose Territory’ describes ‘all the boulders keeping secrets’, where the urge is both to ‘get the rabbits out of hiding’, and also to trip ‘into the dark, the boundless’.

‘Viewpoint’ considers a street protest seen through the revolving glass doors of a hotel, where the speaker is detached, sealed from the noise, but aware of impending danger: ‘Ever closer, their breath, / its volume broad as night.’

‘Base’ takes us back to another sense of danger, again in the north, where borders, check-points and ‘toxic-routes through back gardens’ are re-enacted, suggesting what might recur if Brexit goes through.

The title poem, ‘Invisible Insane’ begins with an epigraph by Margaret Atwood, ‘It was always the other way round’. Again, there’s a mention of the earth as a ‘snow-globe’, and absences: ‘not up against a wall, / your three-legged / mind // jaywalking across / my shadow’.

‘Anomie’ continues the theme of the conflation of words / agency / the natural order, where ‘the old philosopher’ flags absences, issues warnings:  ‘There should be flowers, he tells us, / in a clear-cut voice, simple as ink.’

We begin to sense that the ecstatic energy of the early poems was a bright, brittle desperation, as the world of the chapbook gradually breaks down. In ‘The Sea’s Dream’, there’s a ship ‘fleeing an hourglass’, and inviting its passengers to ‘kiss the sea’s shrinking reflection // unfold vestigial gills and fly / down, down, down to the sea’s secret garden, / our older memory.’

In this world of vanishings, time, most especially, is fleet:  ‘The Speed of Life’ is a sonnet which spans a lifetime, from a boy playing marbles  (‘genies are lifted to colour air’) until old age, when he is walking ‘on scarred and scraggy knees / through the gates of memory’.

‘Into the Iron Winter’ is a series of impressionist images, where ‘between apples and dirt, / a girl lifts an apple / feels a bird turn.’

The bird image leads us to ‘The Thing with Feathers’ which evokes Emily Dickinson’s ‘Hope is the Thing With Feathers’. In this case, an old woman, along with many other souls, prays in a chapel for her dear departed, whom she will join soon. ‘Prayers flutter, three/ hundred breaths a minute’ and ‘in the clerestory, we find ‘an angel’s / wing-lashed fire// in twenty-one-gram / refractions, holding all this’.

The sense of loss due to departures is also evoked in ‘End of the Blessing’ where ‘you were the heart’s x / against my Guernica wall, / drowning out calamity.’ The poem ends: ‘what’s left inside me, now/ you’ve drifted off,/ taking all the alleluias?’

The last poem is an orphan left out of my last collection, which featured one too many poems about cats! ‘As Pearl Cat Catches Rain’ attempts to return to the enchantment of life, where ‘air draws cloud / to land on street in handfuls // and cobbles sing’.

These are the chapbook’s see-saw emotions: from euphoria to apprehension. From the wonderment of life, the longing to share it, to the pang of loss and absences; from the seizing of the day, to the fear of impending demise, of death.

The final cover (alongside Helen Ivory’s chapbook, also published by SurVision.)

A sample poem:

Body notes

i

Fish swim, oblivious of song

until their body leaves water.

Think of fish sailing

through air, while a radio

is playing Dvořák.

When she was a pipefish wheel,

she watched the cumulous journeys.

Cloud on the body of sky.

ii

The tall hill is layered with trees, 

sun bolting to red.

Think of a rocket, a blaze.

Soldiers on the horizon.

Think of the rack of bodies

as a war machine.

Think of the rhythm of truth

as the rhythm of ricochet.

iii

The room is a suitcase 

and does not belong to the doll.

The walls are a swallow of blood.

The stigmata is female.

Think of the notes of her bones.

Think of the pit; think of descent.

This is otherness. Sometimes

the body whimpers.

iv

The tongue is the keeper of flame,

especially when singing.

Think of tone as a swooning.

Nakedness as intuitive.

Think of light through a dream.

Now a body is unlocking a door, 

spilling a cup,

blooming with scales.

(I was asked to explain the poems by my students. This is for them. Hopefully it opens the door a little, at least.)

I want to learn this song by Megan Merchant

I was reading the journal, One, today and stopped at this poem. It gave me such a thrill,

I had to snatch it for my blog. Hope you like it. And go read the journal. It’s always great: http://one.jacarpress.com/

I want to learn this song—

a man tells me he sang it once, in an elevator shaft—
some people just know where the best
acoustics dwell.

I get weepy when I think of it—all graffiti and damp,
a cringe of piss in the air, the song
like a dried dandelion

blown three stories and the bass notes—maintenance,
a few buildings down, with their jackhammers,
knocking out a hunk

of greenspace where the most human parts of us are
allowed to break—cigarettes pinched
between lips—a conspiracy

to keep us from singing. My god, I want to unpack
and spend at least three weeks between
the strings, have someone

slide their fingers across my skin, and while I’m not
usually fond of being muted, I might
forgive that pressure

holding me steady. I tell him that I’m going to return
as a musician in my next life. If I can
grasp a few chords now,

embody the vibrations. If I can learn to move
between frets with a broken string.
I’ll bruise trying.

I’ll press the emergency button between floors.
I’m a raw nerve and that song is a horsehair
brush, splendid.

Megan Merchant is an editor at The Comstock Review and Pirene’s Fountain. Her latest book, Before the Fevered Snow, will come into the world with Stillhouse Press in April 2020

My father moved through dooms of love by e.e. cummings

My father moved through dooms of love by e.e. cummings

My  father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

this motionless forgetful where
turned at his glance to shining here;
that if(so timid air is firm)
under his eyes would stir and squirm


newly as from unburied which
floats the first who, his april touch

drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots

and should some why completely weep
my father’s fingers brought her sleep:

vainly no smallest voice might cry
for he could feel the mountains grow

Lifting the valleys of the sea
my father moved through griefs of joy;
praising a forehead called the moon
singing desire into begin

joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer’s keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand
so strictly(over utmost him
so hugely)stood my father’s dream


his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;

no cripple wouldn’t creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile


Scorning the Pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain


Septembering arms of year extend
Yes humbly wealth to foe and friend
Than he to foolish and to wise
Offered immeasurable is

Proudly and (by octobering flame
Beckoned) as earth will downward climb

So naked for immortal work
His shoulders marched against the dark


His sorrow was as true as bread:
No liar looked him in the head;
If every friend became his foe
He’d laugh and build a world with snow

My father moved through theys of we
Singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
Danced when she heard my father sing)

Then let men kill which cannot share
Let blood and flesh be mud and mire
Scheming imagine, passion willed
Freedom a drug that’s bought and sold

Giving to steal and cruel kind
A heart to fear, to doubt a mind
To differ a disease of same
Conform the pinnacle of am

Though dull were all we taste as bright
Bitter all utterly things sweet
Maggoty minus and dumb death
All we inherit, all bequeath

And nothing quite so least as truth
–i say though hate were why men breathe–
Because my Father lived his soul
Love is the whole and more than all.

Got this from Genius. To learn more about the poem, check out their site: https://genius.com/E-e-cummings-my-father-moved-through-dooms-of-love-annotated

Thanksgiving by Rachel Long

Thanksgiving

As if by accident, I find my head
washed up window-side of his bed.
After all that fucking, look!
the sky’s still pinned up.
His nose is longer with his eyes shut.
This whole time, I’ve been holding,
squeezing, wringing, folding,
bending, nodding, thank you,
God, for giving me someone who makes me hold
my breath. I will be so light
upon his life he won’t realise
he’s kept me.
I’ll leave not a mark
on his pillow, papers,
knife, DVDs or wineglass.
What blessing
Only when he is sleeping
can I breathe out. So deep
my ribs come up like a ship.

(First published in Mal.)

Rachel’s work has featured in The London Magazine, Magma, & Filigree: An Anthology of Contemporary Black British Poetry. Co-founder and curator of Octavia, she is also the co-translator of O Martelo/The Hammer by Brazilian poet, artist & activist, Adelaide Ivanova, a collection I have reviewed here: https://sabotagereviews.com/2019/10/09/the-hammer-and-other-poems-by-adelaide-ivanova-translated-by-rachel-long-and-francisco-vilhena/

Home by Warsan Shire


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here