Derek Mahon was born in Belfast in 1941 and studied French literature at Trinity College Dublin and at the Sorbonne. He lived for many years in London, working variously as a reviewer, television adaptor of literary texts for British television and poetry editor of the New Statesman. More recently he has domiciled in Dublin and Kinsale. He is regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential of contemporary Irish poets. He has influenced not only a younger generation of British and Irish poets but has also been one of the influences on a new school of Scandinavian poets centred in Oslo and Gothenburg.
His poetry is remarkable for its combination of classical structure and tones with contemporary thematic concerns. A list of his precursors would have to include Samuel Beckett, Louis MacNeice, the poets of Classical Rome and Greece (through the prism of their Elizabethan and Restoration translators, notably Marlowe and Marston), Donald Justice and European poets as various as Rilke, Jaccottet, Valery, and Pasternak all of whom he has translated. He has been described as one of the most musical of poets now writing in English and has been reported as saying that much of the best of contemporary American poetry has been written by Rap artists: “At least it rhymes.”
The high regard in which his work is generally held can be gauged by the awarding to him of the lifetime achievement award, the €60,000 2007 David Cohen Prize for Literature, previously won by the poet Thom Gunn but usually awarded to Novelists. Judging by the brilliance of his recent work and his relative youth a lifetime achievement award may be considered a tad premature; this “itinerant soul”, surrounded by both the literal and metaphoric “esurient sea” he writes so often about, has plenty of juice left in him yet.
The Yellow Book, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 1997
Collected Poems, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 1999
Harbour Lights, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2005
Words in the Air (Phillipe Jaccottet), The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 1998 Birds (Saint-John Perse), The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2002
Adaptations (selected translations/versions), The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2006
High Time, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 1985
The Bacchae, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 1991
Racine’s Phaedra, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 1996
Cyrano de Bergerac, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2004
Oedipus, The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2005
Journalism- Selected Prose, 1996
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Mahon Wikipedia’s Take
http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/ellpatke/Miscellany/Painting/Painting%20into%20Poetry.htm Critical Paper dealing with Mahon’s poems on paintings
http://www.theparisreview.com/viewmanuscript.php/prmMID/732 A manuscript page reproduced in the Paris Rview
A review of Mahon’s latest original collection.