The Arts Council has expressed its deep regret at the passing of poet and Aosdána member Derek Mahon.
Speaking today, Prof. Kevin Rafter, Chair of the Arts Council said:
“In Ireland and around the world, we are suffering an enormous loss. Derek Mahon was a literary giant, talented beyond measure. Within his muscular, tightly constructed poems, he depicted the ordinary and the extraordinary. Unafraid to engage with contemporary themes, his work often questioned how meaningful the work of the artist could be in our modern world. Notwithstanding that, his voice was one that utterly connected, and continues to connect, to people across Ireland and across the world. No one will forget the decision of RTÉ News, in late March, to invoke Derek Mahon’s Everything Is Going to Be All Right at the end of a devastating day in the pandemic; his words gave solace and meaning to people throughout the country when it was most needed. We will need them still.
Mahon’s life was dedicated to his craft, and he wrote across many forms, and was continuously engaged with other art forms. Mahon’s prolific and laurelled career spans almost 60 years; his intellectual and artistic vigour has only grown in the past decade. His latest collection, Against the Clock (Gallery Press) was awarded the Poetry Now Award earlier this year. Speaking on behalf of the judges, poet and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College in Oxford Bernard O’Donoghue said that Against the Clock is simply a masterpiece, dwelling with style and wit on “love and loss, transience, age and time. It is a model too of how to write autobiographically without being self-absorbed”. The book was “driven by an unfailing poetic energy ‘still singing, still going strong’”.
His loss will be deeply felt in the world of letters and the arts, and among the people of Ireland. We will continue to read his tremendous body of work for generations to come.”
Derek Mahon was born in Belfast in 1941, and lived in Kinsale, County Cork. A member of Aosdána, he had received numerous awards including the Irish Academy of Letters Award, the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize, and Lannan and Guggenheim Fellowships. In recognition of his ‘lifetime’s achievement’ Derek Mahon received the David Cohen Prize for Literature in 2007. Publications include The Hudson Letter, The Yellow Book, Words in the Air (bilingual, with the French of Philippe Jaccottet), Birds (a translation of Oiseaux by Saint-John Perse), Harbour Lights (2005) (Winner of the Irish Times Poetry Now Award 2006) Adaptations (2006), Life on Earth (2008, winner of the Irish Times Poetry Now Award), An Autumn Wind (2010), New Collected Poems (2011), Raw Material (2011, a selection of translations), Selected Prose (2012), Echo’s Grove (2013, selected and new translations), Red Sails (2014, prose), New Selected Poems (2016), Olympia and the Internet (2017 essays), The Rain Bridge (2017, A Story for Rory, illustrated by Sarah Iremonger), Against the Clock (2018) which won The Irish Times Poetry Now Award and Washing Up, due for publication on 29 October 2020.
His work for the theatre included versions of Moliere’s The School for Wives and High Time, Racine’s Phaedra, The Bacchae (after Euripides), Cyrano de Bergerac (a new version of Rostand’s ‘heroic comedy’) which was produced at London’s National Theatre in 2004 and Oedipus (after Sophocles) which was published in 2005. In 2013 his collected plays, Theatre, was published.
Limited Signed Editions had also appeared from The Gallery Press — Somewhere the Wave with drawings and watercolours by Bernadette Kiely (2008) and Rising Late with paintings and drawings by Donald Teskey (2017).
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