This is not a love song
It’s hard to give you affection,
indifferent as you are
to the encompassing embrace or passing caress,
and as for giving presents, well,
I did not particularly bring you those daffodils,
heart blasting at their gesture,
curtainless feelings –
the cat looks at her image in the pond before drowning,
and don’t forget, death lasts
Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).
Hard to pin down! I asked my partner, also a poet, what he would consider my writing style to be, and he said, ‘sensual. And surreal.’
What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?
I feel a poem is ready when it’s been scrutinized for at least a month, and there’s not a superfluous word or comma left. It must contain something of life’s blood, have a certain cadence and mystery.
A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce. What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing? Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers? Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)
I find I am seduced by poetry all the time. In my own work, I suppose there are two or more strands – the ‘heart’ poems (which may be seductive or poignant), confessional or narrative poems, and the ‘outlaw’ poems, where I basically ‘trip’, and go on image adventures. Those poems often tap into my unconscious and I enjoy the unexpectedness of them. But I find the ones people want to hear when I’m reading aloud, are the heart ones. I can’t say I consciously set out to write seductive poems, but as love and sex play a big part in my life, they do turn up in my work.
At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read?
I’m reading an anthology of European poets at the moment, and they excite me. Every poem has something deliciously unpredictable – Dadaist, carnivalesque, noirish, confessionalist with a twist. I’ve just randomly opened a page and read this line: ‘I’ve already walked from breakfast to madness.’
Where do you do your writing? How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer?
My partner has just built me a writing room, with a large desk, my special things all around me, window into the garden, shelves and shelves of poetry books. I’m very lucky. Before that, it was the kitchen table. But I do think you need space, silence and privacy to write with any degree of focus.
Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”. How true do you think this is?
I think I know what she meant – poetry can be a selfish act, and many poets will give in to the intensity, the ‘blood jet’, the ‘loaded gun’ of poetry, disregarding the feelings of loved ones. Because that kind of poetry is a magnet to readers, daring to say what people often feel but would never utter, because they fear it’s not a ‘kind’ thing to say. I’ve read many tender poems, poems full of compassion and empathy. But possibly they are a bit too ‘vanilla’ to make a lasting impact.
When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad? (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)
I have a terrible memory and never let the truth get in the way of a good poem! For me, writing a poem is about capturing a feeling or making a discovery. Many ‘confessional’ poems aren’t confessional at all (for example, my poem isn’t!) or they’re written in the persona of another person. You can’t assume that what the poem says is true of the writer’s experiences.
Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).
I was in the Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant in Kloof Street, Cape Town, a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fantastically arty, bohemian place, with young and sexy waiters. The meal was amazing, and then the coffee…I hadn’t had coffee for two months because I’ve been on hot water and lemon to detox…but had to treat myself because the aroma was so intoxicating…it was presented with a flourish and it was perfect. No bitterness at all. An Americano with HOT milk (often I find coffee disappointingly cool, and I like it hot) in a jug to add myself. He came along and sprinkled chocolate on it once I’d poured the milk in. With a wink. That’s a coffee I won’t forget in a hurry…
Black, Strong, or Sweet?
Ahh…strong, and not too sweet.
Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Africa. A Hennessy Poetry Award winner, her work has been published in numerous journals and online, in Ireland and abroad. She was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize (USA), and highly commended in the Magma, Joy of Sex, North West Words and Dromineer poetry competitions in 2012. She won the Northern Liberties Poetry Prize (USA) in 2013. Her début collection, The lucky star of hidden things, was published in 2012 by Salmon. Afric lives in West Cork. More details on her website: www.africmcglinchey.com