‘A long time since the unspeakable violence –
Since Somhairle Bui, powerless on the mainland
Heard the screams of the Rathlin women’
The second I finished reading ‘Rathlin’ I knew that it impacted me deeply, and that I learnt the joys of reading Mahon’s poetry as it is a thoroughly rewarding experience. Instantaneously I gained a sense of history from reading it. The depiction of a dilapidated fortress infested with shrubbery and which was deserted as a consequence and the atrocities that were committed there in the past was almost etched onto my brain. Among the brilliance of the language the and poetic style the thing that impeded my thoughts was the question posed at the closing stanza of the poem, will we let the past influence us now and commit such acts of devastations again or will we learn that these acts were horrific and come to more peaceful solutions when tackling the divisions now. The poems of Derek Mahon have rewarded me with an experience to admire jointly his poetry as well as himself and the area which he grew up in, Northern Ireland. He is mastered in the art to describe elegant scenes, also to give impressions of places with a charm, which gives the scene both depth and beauty. He is able to remove himself from the present and speak without inhibition of it, removing bias, although there is an urge to when dealing with the more volatile topics. When asked do I feel that reading the poetry of Derek Mahon is a rewarding experience, I say it is a thoroughly rewarding experience for all of any age, the poems of Mahon also contain a great style of imagery and sense of place, these poems also pose the question of past can shape the present. With ‘A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’ Mahon elaborates eloquently how suppression and violence from the past have detrimental effects on the present. ‘As It Should Be’ explores the history of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and this interlinks with ‘Ecclesiastes’ is showing bigotry in Northern Ireland also. ‘After The Titanic’ is the second last poem and ‘Antarctica’ is the final poem I will be exploring, both expertly explore human behaviour and subtly pose a question relating to whether we would have done the same as the individual who have committed promiscuous acts. There are also unifying themes throughout Mahon’s poetry such as how the past influences the present, and there is Mahon’s use of imagery and sense or place which I will also explore relating to the poems, all of these, I feel, make it an extremely rewarding experience to read. Northern Ireland, in the time of Mahon was a very tense place to live, where Protestants suppressed Catholics by stripping them of equal rights. Northern Ireland consists of 6 Counties owned by England which was created under the Government of Ireland Act in 1920, the main religion there is Protestantism as there was a plantation in it which consisted of taking Protestants from Scotland and planting them there. Catholics didn’t have equal schooling; they lived in clustered sectors together; they didn’t have open religious expression; the justice system wouldn’t favour them if they were the innocent party and many other anathemas were placed on them. In response, some Catholics resorted to terrorist activities i.e. formation of the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland, the I.R.A. were originally freedom fighters in the Republic who tried to fight off the English and remove their presence from the island of Ireland. The I.R.A. of Northern Ireland however, is a vicious group who frequently bombed Protestant sectors of Northern Ireland and killed numerous innocent civilians. The English then created The Ulster Volunteer Force, The Defence Force and deployed English soldiers in Northern Ireland to combat the I.R.A.’s attacks. It resulted in a greater division in Northern Ireland and caused more sectarianism and hatred. Peace was only achieved when the two sides started to talk, and resultantly made the Anglo-Irish Treaty...
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