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Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems / David McLoghlin

Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems

By: David McLoghlin

Native to Ireland but relocated in childhood to Brussels and New England, David McLoghlin writes about emigration and a search for belonging, about betrayal and abuse, about the imagined private lives of the saints, and the geometries of loss and love on the New York subway. In so doing, he offers the reader a first collection that is at once expansive and refined: an uncommon blend of scope and pointillist detail. ...
ISBN 978-1-908836-05-2
Pub Date Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Cover Image Harry Clarke RHA, (1889-1931), The Meeting of St Brendan with the Unhappy Judas, Stained glass, 66.7 x 51.4 cm, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, photography by Dara McGrath
Page Count 112
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Native to Ireland but relocated in childhood to Brussels and New England, David McLoghlin writes about emigration and a search for belonging, about betrayal and abuse, about the imagined private lives of the saints, and the geometries of loss and love on the New York subway. In so doing, he offers the reader a first collection that is at once expansive and refined: an uncommon blend of scope and pointillist detail.

“These are big, ambitious, sometimes sprawling poems, rich in narrative and in detail, an autobiography of sorts, where the voyaging soul is concerned to find home and meaning in a dialogue between self and other. Like Saint Brendan, the author seems to understand that if home is where you set out from, home is also where you hope to find journey’s end. Yet, if the title poem draws on the mythological, these poems are surely rooted in our century of migration and displacement, where identities are negotiated as much as given. It is the candid engagement with the difficult choices and trade-offs made in a search for some omphalos, some centre, in an ever more shifting world, which energises this collection.” Moya Cannon and Theo Dorgan, The Patrick Kavanagh Awards, November 2008

“These poems are alive to travel and displacement, but not only that: they are alive to the inner lives of places. While this book evolves across two continents, its author is more interested in the local than the global. Whether looking for traces of the Irish Diaspora in Spain, observing Latin American buskers on the Madrid Metro, or crossing Iowa by train to the “only blue county in Kansas” on the day of Obama’s election, David McLoghlin unites sharp “eye work”, in rich and telling details, with what Rilke called “heart work”, in a series of clear and powerful images.”  Ed Skoog, author of Mister Skylight and Rough Day (Copper Canyon Press)

David McLoghlin

David McLoghlin was born in Dublin in 1972, and is a prize-winning poet and writer of creative nonfiction. The author of Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems and Santiago Sketches (both from Salmon Poetry), his work has appeared widely in literary magazines in the USA and Ireland, and been broadcast on WNYC’s Radiolab. A Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship Recipient in 2023, he was awarded second prize in the Patrick Kavanagh Awards in 2008, was a Teaching Fellow at New York University, won the Open category in the 2018 Voices of War International Poetry Competition and received a major Literature Bursary from The Arts Council in 2006. His writing has been anthologised, most recently in Distant Summers: Remembering Philip Casey (Arlen House, 2023) and Grabbed: Poets and Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment & Healing (Penguin Random House, 2020). He was Resident Writer at Hunts Point Alliance for Children in the South Bronx, and has taught at New York University, University College, Dublin, the American College Dublin, and UCD’s innovative Poetry as Commemoration project. He currently facilitates creative writing classes with a variety of organisations, including Poetry Ireland’s Writers in Schools and The Center for Fiction (New York). He returned to Ireland in 2020 after 10 years in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in the Cork area with his wife and daughter.

Doubting Thomas

Resting before going on, he began 
to hear music coming from over the hill. 
Though he could see the oasis lights 
and taste the camphor fires, he couldn’t 
imagine the city of arrival: the breaking 
of bread, the host pouring water over his hands, 
the awful possibility of welcome. Maybe 
he did the hardest thing. And found 
arriving wasn’t what he’d imagined: 
a candle flaring in the shocked heart.
Quiet. Undeniable.  Or maybe he turned 
away one mile from Kerala and went back 
all the way he came, to the forest of pillars 
in the desert, where love would never find him.

Sandymount Strand 

Nothing happens here.
A man walks his dog 
between rivers that carve out 
temporary, treacherous deltas.
The sand sucks at your boots
as you stand for a long time

looking at the lights of the ships 
passing the shelf of the South Wall. 
The bay’s old noose around you.
And yet, the noise of history
grows mute the further out you go.
You come here because once 

too much happened. 
And even now   
a reverberation can sweep 
everything out in the undertow
flowing to emptiness 
down the levels of emptiness

where gulls mock in immense space
—ask the right question!—
and shelter where there is no shelter
in flocks that run  
along the tide rivers
rivering out to sea.

In a blue-grey light
a couple walks towards Booterstown,
and the spires of Dún Laoghaire
unreal behind rain:
restored by distance 
to figures in a landscape.

Copyright © David McLoghlin 2012
Review: Waiting for Saint Brenda and Other Poems reviewed by Peter Costello, Literary Editor of The Irish Catholic, October 18th, 2012

States of Irish Poetry 

New Collected Poems by John Montague (Gallery Press €15 / £20)
Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems by David McLoghlin (Salmon Poetry, €12 / £10)

Though the popular idea of modern Irish poetry may seem to be dominated by Seamus Heaney, other poets who emerged in the 1960s, such as Thomas Kinsella, Derek Mahon, and John Montague, have always been admired too for their very different, but quite distinctive styles.
Montague’s collected later poems are now to hand, reminding us in detail of a great talent first admired in the pages of The Irish Times in a fugitive way.
An Ulster man—not for nothing is an earlier collection entitled Poisoned Lands—his meditations on that province’s bloody past, and still troubled present, appeared first in The Rough Field, a title taken from Garvaghy, the rough field in question.
“Like Dolmens round my youth, the old people” that haunting line from one of Montague’s early poems still echoes in this volume, when he an older man himself he retuns to explore familiar rooms, ancestral homes, native places. The tone is by turns elegiac and fierce.
This is a magisterial volume indeed. It is to be expected that, as with his late friend Robert Graves, Montague’s collected poems will go on growing with the winnowed additions of his future work.

Cross roads

John Montague belongs to a generation of Irish writers for whom the cross roads of the world is where the Boul’ Mich meets St Germain. But over his life the main focus of Irish life culture has moved from Europe to North America.
The first collection of a young Irish poet exemplifies this. Montague was born in Brooklyn, New York. David McLoghlin has moved there.
In his poems, however, affected by different kinds of poetry, evoked in Whitman and Lorca, the pain of past emotions is consoled and shaped, and made into art.
On the other hand, man of McLoghlin’s poems are ecliptic and controlled in a very controlled manner. McLoghlin might learn from Montague to run with a looser rein at times. The incidents of his poems, such as those about abusive relationships, in other hands might be far angrier.
His images draw on the legend of St Brendan, but his glimpse of Judas bound to his mid-ocean rock from the voyage of Brendan, suggests an imagination, which like the navigator, is trying an Atlantic crossing, have travelled into many parts of Europe, but is haunted perhaps by a sense of betraying somewhere else.


Indeed travel and displacement seems to be a dominant theme in this book. For McLoghlin perhaps the south tip of Manhattan carries the same emotional response that the corner of rue Saint Benoit might for Montague. He exhibits a creative tension between cultures which promises still richer poetry in future.
It remains to be seen whether like Brendan, he has found an earthly paradise on the ocean’s far side.
It is always interesting to see poets searching for their themes among the images of scattered lives. Human frailties over the decades break up the movement forward.
Yet in these encounters, these losses, are awakened hopes that give the poetry of both John Montague and David McLoghlin their distinctive thone. Both demonstrate that the various states of Irish poetry, at home or overseas, are flourishing, providing varied riches to explore. 

Short-shot Review: David McLoghlin: Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems reviewed by Suzanne Parker for Mead: The Magazine of Literature and Libations 

David McLoghlin’s new book begins with “how easy it is to lose a place” (“Dun Chaoin”), and the book takes the reader on a search for what is lost, traveling from Madrid’s metro to a Belfast train compartment, from Lawrence, Kansas, to the Paradise of Birds. There is a great cohesion to the poems in this collection; their power accrues the deeper into the book a reader goes. Focusing on memory, place, dislocation, and identity, these central concerns shift, revise, and alter just as memories do themselves, where not only the speaker but a whole “country had slipped its moorings/ and was navigating into a different time zone” (“Climbing Mount Eagle”).  Searching, the speaker says in the title poem “Waiting for Saint Brendan,” “In the playground,/ I was the boy who is not seen:/ silent, as he learns he is without a people.”  This journey to locate the self in people and a place shifts and narrows near the end of the book as in the poem “Beal Ban: Nocturne,” when the speaker says, “I bent to the page, learning to write more than I/ and you entered my poems.”  There is a settling of the journey here. The speaker seems to have finally located himself, “And I’m here,/ listening to you breathe beside me/ in the night light:/ I’m here, looking at you” (“Beginning of Trust”).  In the end, both speaker and reader cover much ground in this fine first collection. 

Excerpt from Introduction made by Peter Longofono (co-host of The Cornelia Street Café Graduate Poets Reading Series) before a Reading by David McLoghlin in 2012:

David’s poems have such a breadth of material to draw from, one wonders how he ever settles on a poem's locality—but that’s part of the point. What we have here is an unsettled poet, a rerouted and repotted writer with all the implied tenacity and adaptability. And, fittingly, the unsettling elements, the hardly-navigable, are his forte. “All I trust is the forward horizon,” he tells us, a benediction against the maledictions with which his poems are fraught. But also: “in my country / the male witches rule always / the under-territories of silence.” So we take his work as a manual for the voiceless, those snuffed or stunted in childhood, at times rising to invective against the various and inescapable cruelties: children betraying children, predatory authority, ritual as hiding-place. Listen for the pitch of the language, the way he inflects English with its neighbors, or with the awful rigor of a grimoire. The truth emerges “dripping, / armoured, ancient with feelers;” eyes are “the longship, / […] unself-pitying.” In a way, these particulars grant location, so that one poem acts as a device to preserve intercourse between two or three luminous nodes in his memory. It’s part consolation, part recompense, and it hearkens back to a time before the written word and all its attendant wrongdoing.

Other Titles from David McLoghlin

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