Derek Mahon

The most accomplished poet of his generation

Derek Mahon was born in Belfast in 1941 and educated at
’s Trinity College where Michael Longley was a friend and fellow-classicist.

Though often associated with the ‘group’ of poets gathered around Philip Hobsbaum at Queen’s University in the 1960s, Mahon’s links and allegiances (like those of John Montague) were and are as much with Paris and New York as with Belfast and Dublin.

From Twelve Poems in 1965 to a Penguin Selected in 2000, Mahon has been a poets’ poet: intellectually uncompromising, fiercely individualistic yet engaged with the triumph and catastrophes of love and social existence, and easily the most technically accomplished poet of his generation (among his successors only Paul Muldoon comes close).


Other major collections include Night-Crossing (1968), The Snow Party (1975), and, in a major productive period in the early 1980s, Courtyards in Delft (1981), The Hunt by Night (1982) and 1985’s Antarctica.

As well as being a prolific poet,
also worked as an editor, translator, journalist and lecturer. His work for the stage includes a version of Euripides’ The Bacchae (1991), The School for Wives and High Time (both after Molière), and a version of Cyrano de Bergerac which opened at
's National Theatre in April, 2004.

He has edited The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry (1990) and The Sphere Book of Modern Irish Poetry (1972) where he insists on the value of the Northern Irish experience to Irish consciousness, and in so doing gives notice of what was sometimes called a ‘renaissance’.

Works translated by Mahon include Racine's Phaedra (1996); Selected Poems by Philip Jaccottet (1987), which won the Scott-Manriet Translation Prize; and The Chimeras by Nerval (1982).

A member of Aosdána, Mahon has received numerous awards and honours including the
Irish Academy of Letters Award, the American Ireland Fund Literary Award and Lannan and Guggenheim Fellowships.