Monday, 31 December 2018

Derek Mahon: 'Mythistorema'

At the end of 2018, I leave you with 'Mythistorema' by Derek Mahon (this is actually a 2017 poem, but who cares?) Mahon has also, this year, released Against the Clock (Gallery Press), which I look forward to reading: he's one of my most admired poets.

The title of 'Mythistorema' merges "myth" and "history", and for readers of poetry it may suggest the title of a sequence by George Seferis. To me, this poem was immediately and most powerfully a callback to what may be Mahon's greatest poem, 'A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford'. I then realised that a line from the Seferis sequence actually appears at the start of 'A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford' ("Let them not forget us, the weak souls among the asphodels") - linking all of these poems together.

It's quite moving how the aging Mahon, resurrecting the opening image of the mine from 'A Disused Shed' into 'Mythistorema', climbs down into his own oeuvre and personal myths, his memory, and his life - then admitting as wryly as ever: "We try to grasp it but the past dies back/to a grainy line-up of old photographs." There was more pain and anger at the heart of 'A Disused Shed', which finally cries out against genocide, mass death and the failure of human endeavour. Here, Mahon seems to conclude more resignedly: "Now everyone/whispers together in the dim fields below".

Photo of asphodel by Ligurian Photoflora. Used under Creative Commons license

Rogue Strands: Best UK Poetry Blogs of 2018

I write this belatedly and on a different continent from the usual (well, not that different from the usual - I'm back in Victoria, BC on Canada's Vancouver Island, visiting my family.)

Anyway, this is to let you know that poet and blogger Matthew Stewart (who writes the Rogue Strands blog) kindly included me once again on his year-end list of Best UK Poetry Blogs, for 2018. I've made it on to this excellent list for a few years now - readers of UK poetry blogs, and hopefully poetry blog readers in a few other countries, know that this is a must-read or at least must-browse list. So I was very pleased to be included again. Of course, this should also serve as an incentive to blog a little more often than I've tended to do lately.

You can read the full lineup here: