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Songs of Praise

Derek Mahon, 18 December 1980

... Tonight, their simple church grown glamorous, The proud parishioners of the outlying parts Lift up their hymn-books and their hearts To please the outside-broadcast cameras. The darkness deepens; day draws to a close; A well-bred sixth-former yawns with her nose. Outside, the hymn dies among rocks and dunes. Conflicting rhythms of the incurious sea, Not even contemptuous of these tiny tunes, Take over where our thin ascriptions fail ...

Table Talk

Derek Mahon, 3 July 1980

... You think I am your servant but you are wrong. The service lies with you. During your long Labours at me, I am the indulgent wood, Tolerant of your painstaking ineptitude. Your poems were torn from me by violence; I am here to receive your homage in dark silence. Remembering the chain-saw surgery and the seaward groan, Like a bound and goaded exodus from Babylon, I pray for a wood-spirit to make me dance, To scare you shitless and upset your balance, Destroy the sedate poise with which you pour Forth your ephemeral stream of literature ...

New Wave

Derek Mahon, 5 April 2001

... On the first day of principal photography they sit outside at a St Germain café with a coffee pot between them on a round table of chequered oilcloth red and grey. The hand-held camera looks for natural light, mikes pick up traffic and incidental sound. A mid-week noon and the hot bridges sweat; from ice buckets, from windows, watches, knives life flashes back at them their glittering lives ...

Pygmalion

Derek Mahon, 27 January 1994

... Ovid, Metamorphoses, X, 243-277) ... Pygmalion watched these women, hard- featured and cynical, as they led their shameful lives and, sickened by the wickedness so generously given to their sex, he lived alone without a wife to call his own. Meanwhile, ingeniously, he wrought a maiden out of ivory, one lovelier than any woman born, and with this shape he fell in love ...

Men at forty

Derek Mahon, 21 August 1980

Selected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 137 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 85646 058 3
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Exactions 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 85635 332 9
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... The first poem by Donald Justice I ever read was the much anthologised sestina, ‘Here in Katmandu’: We have climbed the mountain, There’s nothing more to do ... It seemed to me then, and seems to me now, a beautiful and mysterious object, resonant and yet resistant to paraphrase. It might be said that it is a poem of regret for the death of idealism, a poem about coming to terms with quotidian reality, and, therefore, in some sense about ‘the way we live now ...

Resistance Days

Derek Mahon, 25 April 2002

... for John Minihan Nous nous aimerons tous et nos enfants riront De la légende noire où pleure un solitaire. Paul Eluard The sort of snailmail that can take a week but suits my method, pre-informatique, I write this from the St Louis, rm 14 – or type it, rather, on the old machine, a portable, that I take when I migrate in ‘the run-up to Christmas ...

Long Goodbye

Derek Mahon, 20 November 1980

Why Brownlee left 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 48 pp., £3, September 1980, 0 571 11592 6
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Poems 1956-1973 
by Thomas Kinsella.
Dolmen, 192 pp., £7.50, September 1980, 0 85105 365 3
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Constantly Singing 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 90 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 85640 217 6
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A Part of Speech 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Oxford, 151 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 19 211939 7
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Collected poems 1931-1974 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 350 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 571 18009 4
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... Why Brownlee left is Paul Muldoon’s third book of poems, and his most interesting so far. Whereas, in the earlier books, he didn’t do a great deal more than exercise the quirky, oblique lyricism which has become his personal signature, he puts it here to the service of an idea, or complex of ideas, which constitutes a private poetry of departure ...

Accessibility

Derek Mahon, 5 June 1980

Carminalenia 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 85635 284 5
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The Strange Museum 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 51 pp., £3.50, March 1980, 9780571115112
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The Psalms with their Spoils 
by Jon Silkin.
Routledge, 74 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 7100 0497 4
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The Equal Skies 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.75, March 1980, 0 7011 2491 1
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Sibyls and Others 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 141 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 09 141030 4
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... It would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I have taken the full measure, or anything like it, of Middleton’s Carminalenia, an intensely difficult collection about as far removed from ‘mainstream’ English poetry as it’s possible to be and yet remain, in part at least, accessible. I say ‘in part at least’, but the fact is that Middleton, to me at any rate, is more often inaccessible than not ...

Perish the thought

John Redmond: Derek Mahon, 8 February 2001

Selected Poems 
by Derek Mahon.
Penguin, 213 pp., £9.99, November 2000, 0 14 118233 4
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... In his undergraduate days at Trinity College Dublin in the early 1960s, Derek Mahon cast a spell over his contemporaries, as he would cast a spell over his early readers. He had wit, taste and a literary knowledge beyond his years; his distinctiveness as a Belfast poet was crucially accentuated by his study of French literature, which Irish poets had been slow to explore ...
Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Alan Heuser.
Oxford, 279 pp., £19.50, March 1987, 0 19 818573 1
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... that a ‘Northern Ireland Renaissance’ is ‘largely a journalistic entity’. Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, John Montague, Paul Muldoon, Seamus Deane, Michael Longley and their colleagues are from the North, and they are poets: but they are individual poets, not a school. They are not even two rival schools, though some of them have started ...

Everything is susceptible

Douglas Dunn, 20 March 1980

Poems 1962-1978 
by Derek Mahon.
Oxford, 117 pp., £5.75, November 1979, 0 19 211898 6
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The Echo Gate 
by Michael Longley.
Secker, 53 pp., £3, November 1979, 0 436 25680 0
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Poets from the North of Ireland 
edited by Frank Ormsby.
Blackstaff, 232 pp., £6.50, October 1979, 9780856402012
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... Derek Mahon’s Poems 1962 – 1978 includes most of his three earlier books, to which he has added a few uncollected poems and about 35 pages of new work. Readers will discover that poems with which they thought themselves familiar have been retitled and in some cases extensively revised. Although precocious in that there are poems here which must have been written when Mahon was as young as 20 or 21, he looks as if he has been compensating for a lack of productivity by going over earlier work once again ...

Anglo-Irish Occasions

Seamus Heaney, 5 May 1988

... of mine, published in Belfast as part of a series that included Seamus Deane, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Stewart Parker, James Simmons, and several other Northern Irish poets whose voices were beginning to raise themselves in the mid-Sixties. To hear John Carey now, almost a quarter of a century later, go farther still along that road of praise is ...

English Fame and Irish Writers

Brian Moore, 20 November 1980

Selected Poems 1956-1975 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 136 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 571 11644 2
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Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 224 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 571 11638 8
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... Ireland of the Twenties through to the Fifties, and respond to the fine anger in the poems of Derek Mahon, Heaney’s most talented Ulster contemporary, when, in poems like ‘Glengormley’ and ‘Ecclesiastes’, he reminds us that the awful Ulster of our youth is far from dead. With these memories we would put our trust in the objectivity of ...

Beddoes’ Best Thing

C.H. Sisson, 20 September 1984

The Force of Poetry 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 447 pp., £19.50, September 1984, 0 19 811722 1
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... between Marvell and the ‘gifted group of Ulster poets: Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, and Paul Muldoon’ – poets surely very unlike the Member of Parliament for Hull. He asserts that ‘many of these are creatively grateful to Marvell,’ and then suggests, even more extravagantly, that ‘it is likely that there is at least ...

Belonging

John Kerrigan, 18 July 1996

The ‘O’o’a’a’ Bird 
by Justin Quinn.
Carcanet, 69 pp., £7.95, March 1995, 1 85754 125 1
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Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 254 pp., £18.95, April 1995, 1 85754 074 3
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Collected Poems 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 217 pp., £9.95, November 1995, 1 85754 220 7
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Captain Lavender 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Gallery Press, 83 pp., £11.95, November 1994, 9781852351427
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... Gaps on the poetry shelf support the claim that women writers felt excluded in Sixties Dublin. Derek Mahon, an eyewitness to literary life in Jammet’s back bar and the lounge of the Old Royal Hibernian Hotel, has agreed that Boland made her way in ‘a male-dominated literary culture’. He wonders whether it was necessary for her to ...

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