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One

Derek Mahon
(b. Nov. 23, 1941 - present)

...was born in Belfast, North Ireland. He was educated at Trinity College in Dublin.
His books of poetry include The Hudson Letter (Wake Forest University Press, 1996); Selected Poems (1993); The Yaddo Letter (1992); Selected Poems (1991); Antarctica (1985); A Kensington Notebook (1984); The Hunt by Night (1982); Courtyards in Delft (1981); Poems, 1962-1978 (1979); The Sea in Winter (1979); In Their Element: A Selection of Poems (with Seamus Heaney, 1977); Light Music (1977); The Snow Party (1975); The Man Who Built His City in Snow (1972); Lives (1972); Beyond Howth Head (1970); Ecclesiastes (1970); Night-Crossing (1968); Design for a Grecian Urn (1967); and Twelve Poems (1965).
(Whew!)
He has also written a number of plays but this is a poetry page.
Here is one of the better reasons for giving thanks to the Irish Times.
When we first saw the list of 100 favorite poems, we looked at it with one eye closed. It was interesting, but the heart did not 'leap up'. Tsk tsk, how myopic. Derek Mahon for example, was unknown to us (we know, we know). The following is as astonishing for its concept as it is well crafted. I mean, I ask you, a poem about the plight of mushrooms?! All the same, you read and it breaks your heart.

A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford
by Derek Mahon

Let them not forget us, the weak souls among
the asphodels –
Seferis,  Mythistorema

 
For J.G. Farrell
 
Even now there are places where a thought might grow –
Peruvian mines, worked out and abandoned
To a slow clock of condensation,
An echo trapped forever, and a flutter
Of wildflowers in the lift-shaft,
Indian compounds where the wind dances
And a door bangs with diminished confidence,
Lime crevices behind rippling rainbarrels,
Dog corners for bone burials;
And a disused shed in Co. Wexford,
 
Deep in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel,
Among the bathtubs and the washbasins
A thousand mushrooms crowd to a keyhole.
This is the one star in their firmament
Or frames a star within a star.
What should they do there but desire?
So many days beyond the rhododendrons
With the world waltzing in its bowl of cloud,
They have learnt patience and silence
Listening to the rooks querulous in the high wood.
 
They have been waiting for us in a foetor
Of vegetable sweat since civil war days,
Since the gravel-crunching, interminable departure
of the expropriated mycologist.
He never came back, and light since then
Is a keyhole rusting gently after rain.
Spiders have spun, flies dusted to mildew
And once a day, perhaps, they have heard something –
A trickle of masonry, a shout from the blue
Or a lorry changing gear at the end of the lane.
 
There have been deaths, the pale flesh flaking
Into the earth that nourished it;
And nightmares, born of these and the grim
Dominion of stale air and rank moisture.
Those nearest the door growing strong –
‘Elbow room! Elbow room!’
The rest, dim in a twilight of crumbling
Utensils and broken flower-pots, groaning
For their deliverance, have been so long
Expectant that there is left only the posture.
 
A half century, without visitors, in the dark –
Poor preparation for the cracking lock
And creak of hinges. Magi, moonmen,
Powdery prisoners of the old regime,
Web-throated, stalked like triffids, racked by drought
And insomnia, only the ghost of a scream
At the flashbulb firing squad we wake them with
Shows there is life yet in their feverish forms.
Grown beyond nature now, soft food for worms,
They lift frail heads in gravity and good faith.
 
They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way,
To do something, to speak on their behalf
Or at least not to close the door again.
Lost people of Treblinka and Pompeii!
‘Save us, save us,’ they seem to say,
‘Let the god not abandon us
Who have come so far in darkness and in pain.
We too had our lives to live.
You with your light meter and relaxed itinerary,
Let not our naïve labours have been in vain!.


For more Poetry Click the Poetry Index.

One

 

Thu, Jul 9, 2015
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Selected Poems
Derek Mahon

"There is a copiousness and excitement about these poems found only in work of the highest order."
Seamus Heaney
"Verse of astonishing versatility and singing power"
Hugh Haughton, Times Literary Supplement
Yes, A Disused Shed... is in this book.
Click here for
Selected Poems


1000 Years of Irish Poetry: The Gaelic and Anglo Irish Poets from Pagan Times to the Present
by Kathleen Hoagland

Interested in Irish Poetry?Here's the easy way to collect them all (well, almost all, anyway).
Malachy McCourt says in his introduction, "With the republication of this book, the Irish recover under their roof of stars all the great poets and writers who have been falsely claimed by the saxon crown and its minions - even our reprobates."
Amazon states this is out of stock. They still have used copies for almost nothing (except shipping - chuckle). If you would like a new edition, it was available at Powell's. We can't promise it's still there. Click here for Powell's 1000 Years.
Click here for used at Amazon.


 

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