Short-shot Review

David McLoghlin: Waiting for Saint Brendan (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

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.