Best of Irish Poetry 2009
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Editor: Matthew Sweeney



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Afric McGlinchey reviews Grace Wells's latest collection




Afric McGlinchey photo

The 2010 winner of the Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry, Irish-born Afric McGlinchey was educated at Rhodes University and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her poems have been published in a number of journals, including Acumen, Magma, Poetry Ireland Review, Wordlegs, Southword, Revival,  Tears in the Fence, The  Sunday Tribune, Scottish Poetry Review, Crannóg and The SHOp. She was also a prizewinner, longlisted and shortlisted for several other competitions. She writes fiction and poetry reviews, edits manuscripts for The Writers’ Consultancy, and is a poetry tutor at www.creativewritingink.ie. Afric's debut collection is forthcoming from Salmon in 2012.






Book Cover Image

When God Has Been Called Away to Greater Things

Grace Wells

(Dedalus, 2010)

ISBN: 978 1 906614 32 4

€12 paperback


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Poets are often warned not to rush their first collectionthe one that establishes their voice. Grace Wells has clearly been carefully considered in her selection and ordering of these poems. She consciously unifies details, so they gather in significance and symbolism throughout the collection. In so doing, she makes fresh perception possible. The poems hold on to their mystery even though vividly evocative: the visual clout of "your needle wife stabs at shopping" while "doubt and distance hold off greeting" heightens the tension of a significant moment. A complex emotional relationship is symbolised by "your bees" whose swarms bring allergic response. Yet their continued presence in her dreams fuels the speaker’s "tireless attempt/ to make something of their sting".  Grace Wells is a brave poet – the best kind – and the questioning which occurs is matched with a finding.

Her poems – even those describing rawly painful memories – are beautiful, ultimately reflecting the influence of landscape and physical work on well-being. Undertaking the monumental task of  taming her wilderness of a garden is a symbol of Grace’s own determined strength of purpose: "I cut and pulled, reeling wires of briar behind me, piling,/ walling myself in, then sifting it all again, forking back and forth over the field, building a bonfire higher than a man." It is in such activities that Grace Wells orders her world and her poetry. Her line lengths are longer than usualgiving a solidly reassuring earthedness to her poems. Another characteristic is her grasp of the present moment. External events disappear while she is inside the work of gardening, inside the work of a poem. That sustained focus is evident in her poems: "I was writing of the dark things he’d done; mornings/ begun with the tongue sealed to the roof of my mouth."

As Andrew Duncan said: "a poem is an externalisation of a neurological state". Here, we are sharing Wells’ psychological journey with her. These poems reward sustained attention from the reader. Grace Wells is one of the most exciting poets of recent times.



©2011 Afric McGlinchey





Author Links


Afric McGlinchey home page

Poems by McGlinchey in the Tribune

Three poems by McGlinchey in Scottish Poetry Review






©2009 Southword Editions
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