The poetic career of Derek Mahon was celebrated at a special event last week in Trinity College Dublin featuring one of Ireland's foremost actors Stephen Rea and leading academic Professor Hugh Haughton.
Organised by the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at the School of English, the event marked the poetic achievements of Derek Mahon, one of Ireland's foremost contemporary poets and one of Trinity’s most distinguished graduates. The event assessed Derek Mahon's contribution to poetry over the last five decades beginning with his first publication Twelve Poems published in 1965 to his New Collected Poems and his most recent prose collection, Red Sails.
At the event actor Stephen Rea, a close friend and long-term admirer of Mahon’s work, read a selection of Derek Mahon’s poems. This was followed by a lecture by Hugh Haughton, Professor of English at the University of York, and an international authority on modern poetry.
Professor Gerald Dawe, Director of the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at Trinity, said: “Derek Mahon's poetry has been widely acknowledged as one of the most impressive literary achievements of our time. In the fifty years between his first publication and his most recent, Mahon has consistently produced writing of the first order. It is a pleasure to honour that achievement in the company of one of Ireland's leading actors, Stephen Rea and Hugh Haughton, an authority on modern poetry, both of whom know and have admired Derek Mahon since the start of his remarkable voyage.”
In his lecture, entitled Beginnings and Endings: Looking back at the Achievement of Derek Mahon, Professor Haughton offered a review of Derek Mahon's achievement from his beginnings as an Irish cosmopolitan poete maudit in Trinity in the mid 1960s through a career of displacements and re-inventions to his late work as a poet of the 21st century global crisis, viewed from Kinsale.
Professor Haughton stressed Mahon's distinctive trajectory as a poet of literary and political modernity: “Mahon is an uncannily attuned poet issuing a series of uniquely grounded situation reports, focused around his own biography in dialogue with many others, but using this dialogue as a lens for reflecting on our predicament under the new global conditions, with Ireland viewed from elsewhere, and elsewhere viewed from Ireland. In this lecture I will explore the intimate relationship between Mahon's characteristic sense of endings with his intimation of new beginnings, his bi-focal sense of both cultural dereliction and 'the incoming wave'.”