Derek Mahon (1941-2020)
We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of the Belfast-born poet Derek Mahon.
Mahon was affiliated with that group of young Northern Irish poets who rose to prominence in the 60s and 70s, including Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley. Following the sad news, Longley said:
"Derek Mahon and I went to the same school, the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (Inst for short). But our friendship of more than sixty years really got underway at Trinity College Dublin, where we served our poetic apprenticeships together. I was dazzled by his precocity and brilliance. And I am still dazzled. From the beginning he was a master of the singing line and the resonant stanza. His finest work is monumental. Derek Mahon wrote great poems and that makes him a great poet. He wrote immortal poems and that makes him an immortal poet.
Almost exactly fifty-two years ago I reviewed his first collection Night-Crossing in the Irish Times (30 September 1968). I wrote: ‘This is poetry rejoicing in all its attributes, the aesthetic and the humane – unembarrassed by its richness and invention. Night-Crossing is a brilliant and moving collection, and I have no doubts at all that Derek Mahon is among the finest poets now writing anywhere.’ Today I stand by every word of that judgment. Derek could be wickedly hilarious company. He wrote the most entertaining letters I have ever received. He was best man at Edna’s and my wedding. The news of his death breaks my heart."
Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's, Glenn Patterson said:
‘Derek Mahon’s outlook, like his reputation, was truly international. At the same time, for my generation growing up here in the 1970s, his poems were among the first places that we encountered ourselves and our world in print. There was a galvanising thrill in that. Where he wrote many were inspired to try to follow, in poetry and in prose.’
Derek Mahon’s final collection, Washing Up, is due to be published later this month by Gallery Press.