- Ireland -
David McLoghlin was born in Dublin in 1972 and educated at University College, Dublin and at New York University’s Creative Writing Program. He is a poet, writer of creative nonfiction and a literary translator. His books are Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems and Santiago Sketches (Salmon Poetry, 2012 and 2017). His third collection, CRASH CENTRE, appears from Salmon in 2024. He has received support and recognition from the Arts Council, The Patrick Kavanagh Awards, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and New York University, where he was a Goldwater Teaching Fellow. He is also a Pushcart Nominee. He has attended artists’ retreats at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig several times, and mentored and taught creative writing and literature at Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, University College, Dublin, New York University, Coler Specialty Hospital, and Hunts Point Alliance for Children in the South Bronx, where he was Resident Writer. Between 2013 and 2016 he curated and ran The Eagle and the Wren reading series in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife, hosting almost 150 writers. He has read and taught at West Cork Literary Festival, Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, The Irish Writers’ Centre, The Lillian Vernon Creative Writers’ House, Cornelia Street Café poetry reading and Franklin Park Reading Series, amongst many other venues. He teaches Creative Writing at The American College, Dublin and with Poetry as Commemoration, The Center for Fiction, The Unfinished Book of Poetry initiative for secondary school students, and Poetry Ireland’s Writer's in Schools initiative. He lives in Cork with his family.
In David McLoghlin’s work, Ireland encounters a new poetry: a male poet willing to write his body, willing to record what has been done to it. A travel writer of sorts too, inviting us to journey with him, as in his second collection Santiago Sketches, a book of short imagistic poems entirely set in the city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Throughout his work, McLoghlin covers ground and crosses countries in search of home and identity, against landscapes, both internal and external, of beauty, displacement, and loss. He records these different locations with sensory precision. He is a poet of place, his range both expansive and ambitious.
In Waiting for Saint Brendan, his earliest collection, he sets off as a gentle guide in search of belonging and resolution, leading us towards a destination he initially seems reluctant to reach, one buried in memories held in his own body, the abuse he suffered as a boy, and his vulnerability since.
He comes as close as he can to confronting this abuse In Russian Dolls, through a contemplation of size, of spaces filled and unfilled, a layered doll within which he is
“ dying alive, within yourself, within him,
he within you,
lies within truth within lies—“
This is man as boy, poet as truth-seeker, soul re-visiting the trauma that lessened him – this diminishment of self, picked up again in A Forest
“my life slept, my will slept, and the forest grew.
He shrank me, so that I became small:
so small, I was mitochondrion,
Energy for someone else’s self”
Here we observe a poet lost, reeling, concurrently moving and stuck.
In Crash Centre, his latest collection, McLoghlin has braced himself for impact, for a deep dive into this forest, into the very site of his abuse.
The safety of metaphor is gone, replaced by the closeness of simile; there is no distance now – the reality of his bodily experience absolutely, microscopically captured.
And so, In Brucellosis we are transported down into the
‘tiny bubbles… contained inside Fr. Terence’s foreskin,
like a culinary foam: jellied caviar, spume of translucent cells.”
We feel a moral duty to re-trace this journey downwards alongside the poet, to see what he sees, has seen, can barely bring himself to see again.
As if mirroring the poet, we must revisit the first lines again, to make some sense of it. We must stay a while in the domestic, feminine world of milk and nurture in which his opening locates us. We must listen again to the aural resonance of an innocent place wherein two archetypal women consider the danger of spoilt milk
“Oh, Ann, would you look. Milk from our own cows,”
And so too must we read past this safety of everyday outrage, over everyday things, and contemplate where we end up in the latter part of the poem, inside the speaker’s private pain, his dreadful, physical whole-bodied reality – the two worlds, connected by “churn, milk, froth,” ringing with our complicity.
Like the poet, we are left in a state of horror, our minds
“glitching along the cracks.”
That same sense of movement whilst being stuck, but the sound of it is louder now –a mounting fury.
The cruelty of Nipples is equally hard to take, the experience shared again through the poet’s physical journeying, from vague ‘tugs’ to magnifying close-ups of abuse, the priest’s “close spittal.”
McLoghlin carries us right into the nexus of abuse with him. He places us and our bodies there, with such visceral closeness that we experience a kind of proximal shame. We can do nothing to help this young boy on the cusp of manhood. We may wish to leave but cannot; his journey must also be our journey.
These are parts and places previously untravelled – terrain few male poets have dared to map. Hinted at in the work of some, perhaps, in John Montague’s “warm tracks” radiating across that “white expanse” of his lover’s body.
But here is work that goes deeper, layers deep, presenting the male body as not only entering but being entered, shifting the power dynamics of sex in brave, compassionate and unflinching ways.
In The Annals, this Irish canon of male verse is criticised for lacking any trace of male physical experience, any reckoning with abuse, when we are carried in time from the ransacking of monasteries to the abused boy’s invisibility.
“you kept the annals, penmanship
better suited to the old vellum. I doubt you mention me, even in marginalia.
A skin of bad touch. A gouge pen.”
There is a simmering anger here, yes, but one imbued with purpose.
David McLoghlin is a male poet brave enough to write the truth of his body and what has been done to it. He is aware of what this signifies – the dawn of a new tradition for male poets, a determined blooming out from what has come before, an expansion across new ground. In The Last Poet in the Anthology, he recognizes it as such, as
“something growing, nonetheless.
Even though it might just be breath on the window.”
One must read this as an underestimation of the poet’s power. One must hope it is also an underestimation of us, his readers.
/ THE LAST POET IN THE ANTHOLOGY
/ THE ANNALS
/ CENTRAL PARK, NOCTURNE
/ CRONE MOUNTAIN
/ NO ONE WOULD KNOW
/ Malleus Maleficarum
/ A FOREST
/ Russian Dolls