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Dave Lordan reviews Afric McGlinchey's début poetry collection




Dave Lordan

Dave Lordan was born in Derby, England, in 1975, and grew up in Clonakilty in West Cork. In 2004 he was awarded an Arts Council bursary and in 2005 he won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry. His collections are The Boy in the Ring (Cliffs of Moher, Salmon Poetry, 2007), which won the Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish writer and was shortlisted for the Irish Times poetry prize; and Invitation to a Sacrifice (Salmon Poetry, 2010). Eigse Riada theatre company produced his first play, Jo Bangles, at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum in 2010. He has lived in Holland, Greece and Italy, and now resides in Greystones, Co Wicklow.






Lucky Star

The Lucky Star of Hidden Things

Afric McGlinchey

(Salmon Poetry, 2012)

ISBN: 978-1-908836-08-3

€12 paperback

Buy from Salmon





The Lucky Star of Hidden Things is fast-paced and geographically wide-ranging début collection focusing on the intertwining journeys of human existence; from death to life and back again, from childhood to parenthood, from love to desolation, from post-colonial Africa to neo-colonial Ireland. It’s a book full of motion, nomadry, transmigration, transformation, a book repeatedly returning to and hinging upon epiphanic moments in McGlinchey’s life when things change irrevocably or are about to:


Even now, when I laugh

at the table, a fear races

through me, recalling


the time we were, all ten

of us, hysterical after a joke

and a potato caught in my throat ....

(Dad’s Manoeuvre, L1-6)


It is refreshing to read a book written by someone so obviously fully immersed in and alert to their surroundings and often able to transmit that energetic consciousness across to the reader in such stand out poems as 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow':


... chongololo queues wait for pirate taxis;

men, dark as squid ink, drink chibuku,

women, wrapped in java prints ....


mbiras, jumpy, rhythmic;

voices calling mangwanani, mushi sterik;

cracks of thunder, clatter of blinding rain ....


McGlinchey's strength lies in her ability to record the noisome flux of the world in poems where she sticks close to the factual and the experiential and to the real names of real things. The collection is worth reading for the stimulation of the well-employed rare and non-Anglo vocabulary alone. However, when she tries mythologising, as in the title poem one of the book’s weakest pieces things don’t take off quite so well.


The poems here are, for the most part, well-constructed without being over-pruned. There is also about enough formal and thematic variety in the book to prevent the poems beginning to fade one into the other and start droning their similitude. The personal lyric, one or two pages long and broken into verses of two or three short lines, is McGlinchey's preferred mode and it’s one she often does very well in. She is particularly strong on the use of enjambment to both propel and control the narrative and acoustic flow of the poems. There are also some narratives, a found poem, and a couple of mythopoetic attempts.


Overall, it’s familiar territory for an Irish début, both thematically and formally, with the short, lyrical, epiphanic and autobiographical dominating throughoutkeep in mind though that McGlinchey’s life story is an exotic one in the Irish poetry context.


I would like to have seen McGlinchey stretch herself more often beyond the limits of the univocal ‘I' poem. Perhaps this is in store in the second collection. The second collection is a hugely challenging one for any poet who has relied on mainly autobiographical material and personal lyrics in the first. Now that we have told our life story, what’s next? Hopefully this poet will speak to us in many more voices than the one she explores so well, but also exhausts, in this book. Now that she has obeyed to the full the instruction from on high to "find a voice" amidst the clamour of the world, it might be time to consider unfinding it and exploring personal polyphony (alongside the worldly polyphony that obviously inspires her) instead.


©2012 Dave Lordan


Author Links


Dave Lordan home page

Lordan page at Salmon Publishing

Article on and poems by Lordan at Poetry International Web

Articles by Dave Lordan in Irish Left Review






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