I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Through to Delight

Through to Delight

Magdalena Kay
Rising Late, by Derek Mahon (paintings and drawings by Donald Teskey), Gallery Press, 48 pp , €100, ISBN: 978-1911337201 Olympia and the Internet, by Derek Mahon, Gallery Press, 86 pp, €11.95, ISBN: 978-1911337102 In Rising Late, Derek Mahon’s signature formalism is on full display. And it is a delight. The poet himself seems to take pleasure from his verse forms, which rearrange the structural units of English poetry into combinations new enough to surprise the reader and recognisable enough that their dialogue with tradition is clear. Indeed “tradition” is too stodgy, too compromised a word to really serve us any longer in the twenty-first century, when our traditions of innovation and avant-gardism are so numerous. Tradition is nothing if not malleable, and Mahon’s tradition is a site of play. As he writes in “Horizons”, the first poem of the volume, “Nobody clears the same horizon twice,” but each one exposes a fresh vista. Just so, each of Mahon’s rhymes offers a different variation of the technique’s possibilities, from the most epigrammatic perfect rhyme to the most amusingly far-fetched slant one, with as much or as little irony as we care to read into it. “I think I go / with the theory that a knowing cogito, / some spirit, spoke the word / and retired,” concludes the deft poem “At the Strand Café”, which takes on the topic of creation and evolution in five ebbing-and-flowing stanzas. They contain both the vague immensity of “infinite dark” and the precision of “smartphone”, placing themselves in the twenty-first century with unpretentious ease. Mahon has always been acutely conscious of his times, yet here he is capable of bringing our temporal coordinates into and out of focus, as his tone and theme demand. If we “go” with the theory that our chaotic contemporary world is proof enough of a deus absconditus, then Mahon must be credited for not making the point with moralistic vehemence. The issue is taken up by different poems in different ways, leaving us with a “rich confusion” of meditations rather than a singular certainty. Mahon first captured the literary world’s attention in his twenties; fifty years later, he still writes with the verve and humour and tongue-in-cheek allusiveness that make his work so enjoyable. Yet the atmosphere and pace of these poems is calmer, less angry, less cynical than that of his early work. This volume shows Mahon newly attuned to the…

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