Author Topic: Derek Mahon RIP  (Read 423 times)

Twit 2

  • Thank God for the hatchery
Derek Mahon RIP
« on: October 02, 2020, 11:18:04 PM »
Mahon gone. (Was) one of the greatest living poets, maybe even the best. Bear in mind Nobel prize-winning Heaney considered him the master. Only Longley left of those mighty three.

Michael Longley said: “Derek Mahon was my oldest friend in poetry. We went to the same Belfast school, and we served our poetic apprenticeships together at Trinity College Dublin. Even then, I knew that he would be one of the great lyric poets of the past century. He was always entirely focused on writing poems, never distracted by the business of ‘the poetry world’. He was a supreme craftsman. There is much darkness in his poetry, but it is set against the beauty of the world, and the formal beauty of his work. I believe that Derek’s poetry will last as long as the English language lasts.”

Here’s the late sick as a pike reading The Mayo Tao:

I have abandoned the dream kitchens for a low fire
and a prescriptive literature of the spirit;
a storm snores on the desolate sea.
The nearest shop is four miles away –
when I walk there through the shambles
of the morning for tea and firelighters
the mountain paces me in a snow-lit silence.
My days are spent in conversation
with deer and blackbirds;
at night fox and badger gather at my door.
I have stood for hours
watching a salmon doze in the tea-gold dark,
for months listening to the sob story
of a stone in the road, the best,
most monotonous sob story I have ever heard.

I am an expert on frost crystals
and the silence of crickets, a confidant
of the stinking shore, the stars in the mud –
there is an immanence in these things
which drives me, despite my scepticism,
almost to the point of speech,
like the sunlight cleaving the lake mist at morning
or when tepid water
runs cold at last from the tap.

I have been working for years
on a four-line poem
about the life of a leaf;
I think it might come out right this winter.

Get Mahon’s Complete Poems, it’ll see you right.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2020, 12:35:50 AM by Twit 2 »


  • How thick is wall?
Re: Derek Mahon RIP
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2020, 08:24:14 AM »
One of the very best. It's extraordinary how many amazing poets an area as small as Northern Ireland produced within the space of a generation or so.

A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford

Even now there are places where a thought might grow —
Peruvian mines, worked out and abandoned
To a slow clock of condensation,
An echo trapped for ever, and a flutter
Of wildflowers in the lift-shaft,
Indian compounds where the wind dances
And a door bangs with diminished confidence,
Lime crevices behind rippling rain barrels,
Dog corners for bone burials;
And in a disused shed in Co. Wexford,
Deep in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel,
Among the bathtubs and the washbasins
A thousand mushrooms crowd to a keyhole.
This is the one star in their firmament
Or frames a star within a star.
What should they do there but desire?
So many days beyond the rhododendrons
With the world waltzing in its bowl of cloud,
They have learnt patience and silence
Listening to the rooks querulous in the high wood.
They have been waiting for us in a foetor
Of vegetable sweat since civil war days,
Since the gravel-crunching, interminable departure
Of the expropriated mycologist.
He never came back, and light since then
Is a keyhole rusting gently after rain.
Spiders have spun, flies dusted to mildew
And once a day, perhaps, they have heard something —
A trickle of masonry, a shout from the blue
Or a lorry changing gear at the end of the lane.
There have been deaths, the pale flesh flaking
Into the earth that nourished it;
And nightmares, born of these and the grim
Dominion of stale air and rank moisture.
Those nearest the door grow strong —
‘Elbow room! Elbow room!’
The rest, dim in a twilight of crumbling
Utensils and broken pitchers, groaning
For their deliverance, have been so long
Expectant that there is left only the posture.
A half century, without visitors, in the dark —
Poor preparation for the cracking lock
And creak of hinges; magi, moonmen,
Powdery prisoners of the old regime,
Web-throated, stalked like triffids, racked by drought
And insomnia, only the ghost of a scream
At the flash-bulb firing-squad we wake them with
Shows there is life yet in their feverish forms.
Grown beyond nature now, soft food for worms,
They lift frail heads in gravity and good faith.
They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way,
To do something, to speak on their behalf
Or at least not to close the door again.
Lost people of Treblinka and Pompeii!
‘Save us, save us,’ they seem to say,
‘Let the god not abandon us
Who have come so far in darkness and in pain.
We too had our lives to live.
You with your light meter and relaxed itinerary,
Let not our naive labours have been in vain!’

Twit 2

  • Thank God for the hatchery
Re: Derek Mahon RIP
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2020, 10:33:36 AM »
The Snow Party

Basho, coming
To the city of Nagoya,
Is asked to a snow party.
There is a tinkling of china
And tea into china;
There are introductions.
Then everyone
Crowds to the window
To watch the falling snow.
Snow is falling on Nagoya
And farther south
On the tiles of Kyoto;
Eastward, beyond Irago,
It is falling
Like leaves on the cold sea.
Elsewhere they are burning
Witches and heretics
In the boiling squares,
Thousands have died since dawn
In the service
Of barbarous kings;
But there is silence
In the houses of Nagoya
And the hills of Ise.

Twit 2

  • Thank God for the hatchery
Re: Derek Mahon RIP
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2020, 10:35:16 AM »
A refusal to mourn

He lived in a small farm-house
At the edge of a new estate.
The trim gardens crept
To his door, and car engines
Woke him before dawn
On dark winter mornings.

All day there was silence
In the bright house. The clock
Ticked on the kitchen shelf,
Cinders moved in the grate,
And a warm briar gurgled
When the old man talked to himself

But the door-bell seldom rang
After the milkman went,
And if a shirt-hanger
Knocked in an open wardrobe
That was a strange event
To be pondered on for hours.

While the wind thrashed about
In the back garden, raking
The roof of the hen-house,
And swept clouds and gulls
Eastwards over the lough
With its flap of tiny sails.

Once a week he would visit
An old shipyard crony,
Inching down to the road
And the blue country bus
To sit and watch sun-dappled
Branches whacking the windows

While the long evening shed
Weak light in his empty house,
On the photographs of his dead
Wife and their six children
And the Missions to Seamen angel
In flight above the bed.

“Im not long for this world,”
Said he on our last evening,
“Ill not last the winter,”
And grinned, straining to hear
Whatever reply I made
And died the following year.

In time the astringent rain
Of those parts will clean
The words from his gravestone
In the crowded cemetery
That overlooks the sea
And his name be mud once again

And his boilers lie like tombs
In the mud of the sea bed
Till the next ice age comes
And the earth he inherited
Is gone like Neanderthal Man
And no records remain.

But the secret bred in the bone
On the dawn strand survives
In other times and lives,
Persisting for the unborn
Like a claw-print in concrete
After the bird has flown.

Re: Derek Mahon RIP
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2020, 02:59:43 PM »
The Mute Phenomena (after Nerval)

Your great mistake is to disregard the satire
Bandied among the mute phenomena
Be strong if you must, your brisk hegenomy
Means fuck-all to the somnolent sunflower
Or the extinct volcano. What do you know
Of the revolutionary theories advanced
By turnips, or the sex-life of cutlery?
Everything's susceptible, Pythagoras said so.

An ordinary common-or-garden brick wall, the kind
For talking to or banging your head on,
Resents your politics and bad draftsmanship.
God is alive and lives under a stone;
Already in a lost hub-cap is conceived
The ideal society which will replace our own.