Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Africa. A Hennessy Poetry Award winner, other awards include the Northern Liberties Prize (Editors’ Choice) 2012, and the Poets Meet Politics prize in 2015. She was also a Pushcart and Forward nominee, and highly commended in the Bridport, Magma, Joy of Sex, Westport, Poets Meet Painters, O’Bhéal, North West Words, Gregory O’Donoghue and Dromineer poetry competitions, among others. She is a freelance book editor and reviewer, and mentors and tutors poetry online at www.africmcglinchey.com Her début poetry collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, (Salmon) was translated into Italian. Her second collection, A River of Familiars, is forthcoming in 2016. Afric lives in West Cork, Ireland.
What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?
I think the first real poem I fell in love with was ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ by Walter de la Mare, for the rhythms, the color and vividness of the images and imagination of it all. Also, it appealed to the romantic in me. It’s because of that poem that I have always loved cats and owls!
Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock ‘n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?
Alice Oswald’s Dart. I completely believed her authority. Her rhythms and use of language are so alive, and the way she uses her tongue, as she says herself, like ‘a musical muscle’. As for content, her range and ambition are exciting, the poems so multi-layered there’s a discovery with each re-reading.
What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?
One eureka was realizing that there’s no point in trying to make your work like someone else’s – you’ll just dilute the unique thing that belongs to you alone. And you know when you’ve written a poem you can stand over. That’s the one you can deliver with conviction and authority. But I don’t believe in being pigeon-holed into a category or style of poetry. It’s important to be open to writing any kind of poem, to find different ways of expression, and allow the poem itself to find its way of being true to you.
What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?
It’s not one that I attended, but a Youtube video of Alice Oswald reciting her poetry to an audience of American students that mesmerized me. She knew all her poetry by heart, and her delivery was different with each poem: fast and fluid one moment, slow and with significant pauses the next. The language, sounds, rhythms and atmosphere of the poems remind me of Dylan Thomas. Here’s the link. It’s over an hour in total, including interaction with the audience, but the best bit is at 17.45:
Billy Ramsell, whom I’ve seen perform on a number of occasions, is also a compelling presence; his energy and intensity are not unlike Alice Oswald’s. There’s something about knowing the work by heart that allows you to inhabit your poems more dramatically, make them more alive.
Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own– which collections would they be and why?
Alice Oswald, for the incantatory power of her rhythm, rhyme and repetitions, and her intent focus, Rosemary Tonks because she is passionate and dangerously honest and a rebel; and a new discovery, Lo Kwa Mei-En for the magically surreal quality of her images and assurance of tone.