Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Invisible Insane, Afric McGlinchey      The jacket is black, with what looks like vertical trails of light streaking up from just above the bottom. The two words of the title are separated by several inches, and placed between the light streaks. The font is a kind of handwriting caps. The word INVISIBLE is white or grey. Pale, anyway. The word INSANE is slightly bigger, as though nearer, and much whiter so perhaps bold, and the letter N leans rakishly to the right. The second N is bright red. The author's name, in the same white caps but smaller, appears in the bottom band of the cover which is black.

SurVision Books, 2019  € 6.99

Strange and familiar

... moves beautifully between strangeness and familiarity

This is how the collection is described in a back-cover tribute by Vona Groarke, and I couldn't agree more. Reading and absorbing this pamphlet is like being at a festival, everything vividly moving around. Sometimes I need to dive into my tent to keep my feet on the ground.

From the first poem, ‘On the Quay of Flames’, Afric McGlinchey lights a fire of images:

On the side, two tongues, not an overcoat stranger,
something more fluid: water poured into a vase. 

At the end she offers us an instruction: ‘Plainly see the first day of the world.’ Don’t expect what’s come before. Prepare for strangeness. 

In ‘Third Law’, the images are scary and current. ‘The slow, hurting body / of the planet is undulating’. Then: ‘Put your moth mask on’, and I picture that mask like splayed-out moth wings. How can it possibly protect?

Say it.
What will outlast the speech bubble?
This is the time of error.

Too true. And the placing of this poem on unlucky number page 13 — a coincidence?

The acknowledgements page tells me that ‘Invisible insane’ is Google Translate’s Japanese version of the proverb: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. How transient events and emotions seem, but also how dizzyingly close we can come to our edge of sanity. In the title poem, I know I won’t encounter the straightforward, but at the same time I’m looking for something to hold onto. The poet uses negatives beautifully (Not; Not; No) at the beginning of alternate verses to talk about love in the cracks, inside the snow globe. ‘Is that you / I can hear, between bells, faintly?’  What a heart-tug!

McGlinchey’s range is stunning, but for the moment I’m staying with her gift of letting us in. ‘Human’ might be my favourite poem — for its pure clear sentences and tenderness. 

The fact that you’re rolling
downhill like a Cuban cigar
in your sleeping bag

We readers are on that hill and on that journey. It’s about how strange and familiar it is to be human. Love it!

Candyce Lange