Belfast-born poet, Derek Mahon, exits the stage

Belfast-born poet, Derek Mahon, exits the stage

Friday, October 2, 2020 4:36 pm

Derek Mahon


By Nehru Odeh

Belfast- born writer of international repute, Derek Mahon has died after a brief illness. He was aged 78.

According to the BBC, Mahon’s publisher, Gallery Press, announced his death, calling him “a master poet”  and “a pure artist.” Cross border body, Poetry Ireland, also said his influence  in the Irish poetry community, literary world and society at large, as well as his legacy,  was immense

Born in Belfast, Mahon started writing poetry during his schooldays at RBAL. He then attended Trinity College in Dublin. His first collection of poems, Twelve Poems, was published by   Belfast Festival at Queen’s in 1965.

Oxford University Press later published his first major collections of poems, Night Crossings, in 1968. And he moved on to publish more collections of poems in a career spanning half a century. He also wrote scripts for some TV dramas.

Mahon was an exceptional poet. Not only did he  hold a central place in Irish culture, he was very passionate and optimistic about it. He was part of an extraordinary group of Northern Irish poets who began to publish work in the mid-1960s and went on to achieve global renown.

He also had a keen understanding of literary tradition. He came out of the tumult of Northern Ireland with a formal, moderate, even restrained poetic voice.  His contemporaries included Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon.

After a stint as a journalist in London, Mahon spent a year as writer-in-residence at Ulster University (UU) in Coleraine in the late 1970s while living in Portrush.

“From the window where I write I look eastwards along the shore to the ruins of Dunluce Castle (once a MacDonnell stronghold) and the Giant’s Causeway,” he wrote in his essay The Coleraine Triangle.

“Slightly to my right is the Royal Portrush golf course, slightly to my left the Atlantic Ocean, with a scattering of rocky islands called the Skerries between me and Scotland.

“On a clear day I can see Jura and Islay.

“Earth has not anything to show more fair.”


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