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Crash Centre / David McLoghlin

Crash Centre

By: David McLoghlin

With unusual, memoir-like power, Crash Centre explores what happens when grooming, gaslighting and abuse masquerade as trust in the relationship between the author and a charismatic literary monk—an antagonist who unites the more toxic legacies of the Catholic Church and Northern-Irish Republicanism. Set at an elite boarding school in the early 1990s, this powerful, affecting work addresses questions of mentorship and betray...
ISBN 978-1-915022-64-6
Pub Date Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Cover Image JPR Williams, British Lions tour to South Africa, Final Test, 1974. Reproduced courtesy of Colorsport / Colin Elsey
Page Count 84
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With unusual, memoir-like power, Crash Centre explores what happens when grooming, gaslighting and abuse masquerade as trust in the relationship between the author and a charismatic literary monk—an antagonist who unites the more toxic legacies of the Catholic Church and Northern-Irish Republicanism. Set at an elite boarding school in the early 1990s, this powerful, affecting work addresses questions of mentorship and betrayal, trauma, memory and erasure, as well as pathways to recovery. Employing impactful, direct address at key moments, the poems also use fairytale imagery and resonant poetic closure. Where Crash Centre begins as self-witness, to reclaim a younger self from silence, by the end it breaks through to a lost community, speaking to, and for, others.  

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. In Crash Centre, McLoghlin has braced himself for impact, for a deep dive 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. 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. 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… shifting the power dynamics of sex in brave, compassionate and unflinching ways. 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. 

Jennifer Horgan

Author and Journalist

MORE Praise for David McLoghlin

In a number of breathlessly long sentences, this poem locates within the drama of Antarctic adventure an Irish singer-adventurer who sings the old way, that is, alone. The diction here is as rough as the unforgiving icy environment, and the physical exertion of singing plus the power of his song adds up to its own heroic achievement. 

—Billy Collins

Judge’s citation on the poem “Tom Crean Sings Sean-Nós at the Tiller on the Southern Ocean” (included), prize-winning finalist in the 2015/2016 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize

David McLoghlin’s debut collection, Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems, proves strong on first reading and grows richer… with each subsequent rereading. … The poems are rhetorically baroque, inward-looking, and taut with imagery, and his complex metaphors unfold, slow and origami-like, often across multiple stanzas. …This is a necessary book, one well worth reading and returning to. 

—Eric Bliman

Birmingham Poetry Review, Spring 2014, number 41

Santiago Sketches is a gift-box brimming with luminous local details of a loved place through which—over a space of nine months—the poet moves like a pilgrim of the senses, offering in poem after poem what’s been seen, felt, smelled, heard; what’s been touched, tasted, and understood: Flap of a pigeon’s wing  . . .  A dark-eyed girl in purple slippers . . . an angel raises a star/ among the horses  . . . At the fountain, the junkies/ washing their needles.  What McLoghlin has composed in this adventurous new collection is a scrupulously tolerant anatomy of Santiago, a religious, secular, open-eyed, warts-and-all love letter to a city where he—a stranger—managed for a little, unforgettable while to make himself at home.

—Eamon Grennan

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

Judges’ citation, The Patrick Kavanagh Awards, 2008

“As an avid reader of Irish literature, I found David McLoghlin’s work to be fresh and unexpected, yet still worthy of inclusion in the great canon of poetry that is produced by his nation” 

—Mark Shaw

Natural Bridge journal

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.

Talking About It

There was a world 

tangled in my throat,

a tight singularity 

that exploded

when words cut the container.

I said to a therapist

I think I was (—


Walking yawed,


Before, I had been 

snow inside glass.

Particle collision.

The pinpoint

of truth from the tunnel

under the mountain 


A great space is needed

when one starts to speak—

almost a whole other planet

for the pine forests around the castle

in the country where everyone

is sleeping.


Grotesque teenagers 

paralysed in a growth spurt

came via the sly 

interlocking thorns,

on through the courtyard

up into the room, 

and kissed me.

When I woke, they were leaning over me,

mouth breathing. They said

You’re not dead.

Get up.

- - - - - 

Hostage Walk

Before Lights Out, we’d be horsing around

when Fr. Narziss would come in,

“Hey!—Hey George! Stop that there now!”

There was no one by that name. Some scowled,

off to the side, at the antic ringmaster, or hurried

to finish pulling on their pajamas. But no one ever asked:

“What’s a monk doing on the Fifth Year Floor

among half-naked 17-year-old boys at nine o’clock at night?”

He always left 10 minutes before our House Master

Fr. Andrew came to say, “What are you doing still up, 

Mr. Beatty? To bed with you, sir. To bed.”

Narziss drifted in several nights a week,

and in the gaggle that surrounded him

established enough credentials—“I was at Joan Baez…

Boston Common in ’68. Oh, of course…”

—to draw us across to the monastery in a smaller group

to talk in the large Reception Room with the picture window

one day in autumn when crows were aloft.

We was my friend Tim, and me. Tim’s hair

was almost white blond. Narziss loosened the collar,

boasting about opium and hashish, and perhaps 

Herri Batasuna, or ETA, in Nationalist West Belfast.

“Oh, they were so handsome—long black hair—and so Basque.”

Then he slipped in: “Did I tell you I’m gay?”

No teacher had been this honest.

I’d been reading No One Here Gets Out Alive, Howl

from City Lights, Baudelaire.

Someone said to Dad, “you let him read Ginsberg?”

and Dad was almost proud. 

Narziss recommended so much.

We went back to the school side around four in the afternoon,

silent, clambering the blast crater.

We hadn’t been in there that long. It’s long.

First Years dispersed ahead of us like minnows, 

hugging the reef; Robo moping artfully.

Tim never went back, and would never say: “You’re excited 

by Narziss, but—don’t go back, Glock.”

We know the hostage walk: monochrome streetscape,

some snow. Two figures walk towards opposing sides,

meet in the middle, and pass. On my way 

to see Narziss three days later

I don’t notice: he’s booked the smaller room

this time, the one with no large window, only slit embrasures

in white walls. I see the enclosure, where monks

are passing—so contemplative, they are almost actors.

The day we walked back together, Tim made it

a normal day. People saw Tim, every day:

in the dorm, in the classroom.

No one asked: “where has David gone?”

- - - - - 

Tom Crean Sings Sean-Nos at the Tiller in the Southern Ocean

And there were still 18 days until they would cross South Georgia

—something that was impossible: to cross crevasses 

in perpetual snow with a biscuit each and ice for water 

to make you thirst more, bare equipment, clothes

that were falling apart on the three of them—Worsley, Shackleton 

and Crean—when increasingly they could have sworn

there was a fourth man with them in the dream stumble, days until

they walked into the whaling station at Stromness Bay, unrecognisable,

sooted from blubber smoke on Elephant Island, and five months

on the pack ice that travelled the Weddell Sea after Endurance 

went down. Two boys ran from them in terror, shouting 

"Strange men are coming!" because they were coming

from the interior, a direction from which no one comes.

But there were still 18 days in the ice flood—jerry-rigged, timbers 

and nails salvaged out of the lifeboats, navigating 800 nautical miles 

to reach the island by a sun sighting, on days when there was none,
waves coming at them uninterrupted from Cape Horn: sky blockers, 
to come out of despair to save the men who were sheltering
under the boats on the ice shingle, snatching sleep in the rock ballast 
that cut the ribs of dreams, days you had to chip your hand off
the tiller when your watch was over.
When Tom Crean took the tiller 
he started to sing. They said later they thought he had invented
the song, that it was an invented language, or no language.
They didn’t understand the words, did not know there were words 
or that it was a source that means old way. But when waves froze 
at the frothing point, they wanted the song to go on. It went on 
into continuance, though no one knew where they were,
relying on Worsley to find a sliver of island
in the Southern Ocean sailors feared in boats bigger than theirs, 
it went on, though there was no one to hold the singer’s hand 
and wind it slowly, as reminder that some bonds still hold
this side of the journey into the song, though
he was as far as you could get from Annascaul, he sang in the bilge 
of a scuppering boat, sang—maybe—as he crawled forward
to scrape ice off the sails. He sang into the crone,
like the war pipes, or an orca fin breaking surface, dissonance
and harmonium, the way a piper will open the drone and keep playing 
along the difficult angles—the chanter, the elbow a lung
of breath-steadiness, the side vents mouths for the voices
—like a tide breaking up through the blow holes, or an army
or home—not harmony, but ululation, singing through a wound, 
singing through. Fantastic vowels, dreaming his people
lining up like waves behind him.

All of the above poems are Copyright © David McLoghlin, 2024

Other Titles from David McLoghlin

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