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Derek Mahon: Conference and online exhibition to celebrate poet’s life and work

18 November 2021 - The life and work of poet Derek Mahon will be celebrated this week (Friday 19th & Saturday 20th November) at the Trinity Long Room Hub.

'Derek Mahon: A Celebration', a conference being held in advance of what would have been the poet’s 80th birthday, has been organised by Trinity’s School of English in association with Poetry Ireland and will be hosted in the Trinity Long Room Hub.

To mark the occasion an online exhibition entitled Derek Mahon: Piecing Together the Poet has been organised jointly by the Library of Trinity College Dublin and the Stewart Rose Library of Emory University (home to the principal Mahon archive). The exhibition features readings by Mahon himself and Stephen Rea along with specially commissioned interviews with friends and fellow poets. The exhibition also features atmospheric photographs by John Minihan.

The exhibition charts the formative influences of Mahon’s life and work including: his ambivalent relationship with Belfast where he grew up; Trinity, where he found his voice as a poet; contemporary poets, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Michael Longley and Brendan Kennelly, all friends and close associates of Mahon; his great reflective poems, such as the famous ‘A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’, as well as his beautifully lyrical shorter pieces, including the consolatory ‘Everything Is Going To Be All Right’ both read by Stephen Rea.

The two-day conference will examine and celebrate his renowned body of writing. Bringing together some of the most distinguished poets and critics from Ireland and beyond to highlight the many aspects of Mahon’s work, it will feature keynote lectures by Hugh Haughton, University of York, the leading scholar on Mahon’s work and by Edna Longley of Queen’s University Belfast, a close personal friend of the poet as well as an outstanding poetry critic. Four poets, Harry Clifton, Leontia Flynn, Paula Meehan and Michael Longley will read poems of Mahon and of their own.

Professor Nicholas Grene, a member of the conference organising committee and Emeritus Professor of English at Trinity, commented:

“Derek Mahon was a star in a generation of wonderful Trinity poets. He was our very first Writer Fellow in Trinity in 1986 and was awarded an honorary degree by Trinity in 1995. His international distinction as a poet was recognised in a number of prizes including the David Cohen lifetime achievement award in 2007.”

“In October 2020, the School of English had been planning a conference to celebrate the poet’s 80th birthday (23rd of November 2021) when the very sad news came in of the poet’s death. Just a few days before he died he had sent me a card giving his blessing for the event. We were all the more determined to go forward with an occasion that would fittingly explore his legacy and achievement. The extraordinary list of poets and scholars who will feature at the event is testimony to the achievement of this great writer.”

Online Exhibition: https://www.tcd.ie/library/exhibitions/mahon/

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