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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 26 February 2016
Clever and moving.
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on 3 March 2007
Derek Mahon's poetry, like Auden's, shows there is still life in the old forms. Which is to say he employs metre and rhyme in the traditional ways but makes them sound bold and contemporary. He is erudite and gives the impression of being bewildered by the mania of modern life, but his voice has enough tongue-in-cheek humour and colloquial elegance to cope: "Maybe I'm finally turning into an old fart/ but I do prefer the traditional kinds of art,/respect for materials, draughtmanship and so on-/though I'm in two minds about Tank Girl over there,/the muse in chains, a screw bolt in one ear,/the knickers worn over the biking gear...." In the midst of the Troubles in his native Northern Ireland he imagines the Japanese poet Basho attending a party to watch snow falling: "Eastward, beyond Irago,/It is falling/Like leaves on the cold sea./Elsewhere they are burning/Witches and heretics/In the boiling squares,/Thousands have died since dawn/In the service/Of barbarous kings;/But there is silence/In the houses of Nagoya/And the hills of Ise." Time has moved on and this could be a response to any conflict, Iraq etc. Mahon brings a time-honoured poetic sensibility into our fractured age where silence, reflection and contemplation of beauty may be the best response to "barbarous kings" or presidents or prime ministers. He shows there is still moral worth in the delight poetry can bring and still room for the intellect in an age of unrestrained gushing.
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