A sense of place

Derek Mahon’s work is often linked with that of his Northern Irish peers, Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley. But he argues that Belfast’s literary tradition has deeper roots

By Nicholas Wroe

a-sense-of-placeIn September 1963 Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley visited the County Down grave of the great Northern Irish poet Louis MacNeice, who had died a short time before. Longley, writing recently in the introduction to a selection of MacNeice’s poems, recalled that as they “dawdled between the graves” all three then-unpublished poets were silently “contemplating an elegy”. When they next met, Mahon read them “In Carrowdore Churchyard”: “Your ashes will not stir, even on this high ground / However the wind tugs, the headstones shake”. Seamus Heaney started to read his poem but “then crumpled it up”. Longley says he decided not even to attempt the task. “Mahon had produced the definitive elegy.”
.
In the years since, Mahon’s poems, – most famously “A Disused Shed in Co Wexford” and “Courtyards in Delft” – have become staples of anthologies and school curricula. Heaney, writing about Mahon’s 1982 collection The Hunt By Night, said “there is a copiousness and excitement about these poems found only in work of the highest order”. Another critic called him “a Belfast Keats with a Popean sting”.

Read the complete article

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, Reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s