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Derek Mahon Biography

(1941– ), Listener's, Vogue, New Statesman, Twelve Poems, Night Crossing, Lives, The Snow Party

Northern Irish poet, born in Belfast; he grew up in Glengormley, Co. Antrim, and was educated at Belfast Institute and Trinity College, Dublin. After teaching in Belfast and Dublin, he became the Listener's drama critic in 1971 and subsequently held editorial positions with Vogue and the New Statesman. He has also worked as a writer-in-residence in Britain and America and as a television scriptwriter. His first significant publication as a poet was Twelve Poems, produced along with pamphlets of work by Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley for the Belfast Festival in 1965 (see Ulster poetry). Night Crossing (1968) was followed by numerous collections which include Lives (1972), The Snow Party (1975), Poems 1962–1978 (1979), The Hunt by Night (1982), Antarctica (1985), Selected Poems (1991), and The Yaddo Letter (1992). Much of Mahon's poetry draws its economically precise imagery from various Irish localities. Considerable power and originality are evident in his imaginative confrontations with social and cultural conditions in Northern Ireland; ‘Rage for Order’ and ‘Last of the Fire Kings’ address the extreme predicament of the poet in Ulster in energetic and disciplined free verse. His later work is more contemplative in tone and is distinguished by the subtlety and accomplishment of its verse forms. High Time (1984) and The School for Wives (1986) are his adaptations of plays by Molière; The Bacchae is adapted from the play by Euripides. His works as a translator include Nerval's The Chimeras (1982) and Selected Poems (1988) of Jaccottet.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Madras House to Harriet Martineau Biography