Friday, 2 October 2020

In memory of Derek Mahon, 1941-2020


Today I am looking at the London rain and crying over the loss of Derek Mahon, who has died at the age of 78. 

Mahon meant as much to me as Heaney, if not more. He was a wry and delicate poet, a great stylist who could make a photograph in your mind or share a personal event and radiate it outwards to larger meanings. I have been reading him for decades and I cannot believe he is gone. So many of his poems are close to my heart. 

I would have a hard time choosing a single favourite poem by Mahon - so many come to mind, including 'Courtyards in Delft', 'A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford', 'The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush', 'Dog Days' - the list is long. 

One of my strongest contenders, however, is 'Kinsale' - a perfect short poem which captures a place, a mood, and optimism in the face of Ireland's difficult histories. 

Here is a video recording of 'Kinsale' released just a few weeks ago, read by Tony O'Donoghue and produced by Made to Measure Films Kinsale. I love this poem dearly and think of it often. 

I will always miss Derek Mahon. 

Photo: Derek Mahon in Moscow, 2010. Photo by Marina Masinova. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0


  1. This is moving and very well said. Thank you.

  2. A completely 'exemplary' poet whose books you can open anywhere, confident that you'll not be disappointed. There aren't very many one can say that about.
    Thanks for being there with the news which one needs to know and I'm not sure how long it would have taken me to find out otherwise.
    I spent much of the afternoon with the 'Selected' which is guaranteed to never let you down. I don't think we will see the likes of Derek Mahon again.

    1. That's so true. It astonished me today how many poems I saw being shared on social media which perhaps I hadn't read in some time or had half-forgotten but they suddenly lit up again with perfectly crafted lines, unforgettable images and personal associations. I almost hadn't realised how deeply his work had entered my life.

  3. He was delightfully cosmopolitan and we got on well. Late 60s? Early 70s? Chatting in Bernard Stone's bookshop.