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Derek Mahon


Derek Mahon was born in Belfast, North Ireland, on November 23, 1941. He was educated at Trinity College in Dublin.

Mahon was the author of several collections of poetry, including An Autumn Wind (Gallery Press, 2010); Life on Earth (Gallery Press, 2008); and Somewhere the Wave (Gallery Press, 2007)He also coauthored In Their Element: A Selection of Poems with Seamus Heaney (Arts Council of Northern Ireland, 1977).

Hugh Haughton, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, referred to Mahon’s work as a “verse of astonishing versatility and singing power.”

His honors included the Scott-Manriet Translation Prize, two Poetry Now Awards in 2006  and 2009, the Irish American Foundation Award, a Lannan Literary Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the Arts Council Bursary, and the Eric Gregory Award.

Mahon lived in Cork, Ireland, and died on October 1, 2020.

Selected Bibliography

An Autumn Wind (Gallery Press, 2010)
Life on Earth (Gallery Press, 2008)
Somewhere the Wave (Gallery Press, 2007)
Harbour Lights
(Gallery Press, 2005)
Resistance Days (Gallery Press, 2001)
Poems (Gallery Press, 2001)
Collected Poems (Gallery Press, 1999)
The Hudson Letter (Wake Forest University Press, 1996)
The Yaddo Letter (Gallery Press, 1992)
Selected Poems (Viking, 1991)
Antarctica (Gallery Press, 1985)
A Kensington Notebook (Anvil Press, 1984)
The Hunt by Night (Oxford University Press, 1982)
Courtyards in Delft (Gallery Books, 1981)
Poems, 1962-1978 (Oxford University Press, 1979)

Journalism: Selected Prose, 1970-1995 (Gallery Press, 1996)


By This Poet



im chaonaí uaigneach nach mór go bhfeicim an lá

I lie and imagine a first light gleam in the bay
    After one more night of erosion and nearer the grave,
Then stand and gaze from the window at break of day
   As a shearwater skims the ridge of an incoming wave;
And I think of my son a dolphin in the Aegean,
   A sprite among sails knife-bright in a seasonal wind,
And wish he were here where currachs walk on the ocean
   To ease with his talk the solitude locked in my mind.

I sit on a stone after lunch and consider the glow
   Of the sun through mist, a pearl bulb containèdly fierce;
A rain-shower darkens the schist for a minute or so
   Then it drifts away and the sloe-black patches disperse.
Croagh Patrick towers like Naxos over the water
   And I think of my daughter at work on her difficult art
And wish she were with me now between thrush and plover,
   Wild thyme and sea-thrift, to lift the weight from my heart.

The young sit smoking and laughing on the bridge at evening
   Like birds on a telephone pole or notes on a score.
A tin whistle squeals in the parlour, once more it is raining,
   Turf-smoke inclines and a wind whines under the door;
And I lie and imagine the lights going on in the harbor
   Of white-housed Náousa, your clear definition at night,
And wish you were here to upstage my disconsolate labour
   As I glance through a few thin pages and switch off the light.