Poetry of Derek Mahon

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“Speaking of Derek Mahon...”
Write out the text of a talk you might give on the poetry of Derek Mahon.

Fellow Classmates, I would like to introduce you today to the Poetry of Derek Mahon. I must say I really like his poetry. Whereas too many poets are content simply to just go on and on about the “feelings”, Mahon engages with the world beyond himself. His poems deal with history and its victims, detailing their plight in a way that I found to be both compassionate and truly moving. I also liked the way his work focuses on individuals from history who are trapped in extreme and desperate situations, whose minds are at the “end of their tether”. Paradoxically, perhaps, by shifting to focus away from himself and by avoiding the discussion of his own feelings, Mahon produces work that bristles with compassion, sympathy and empathy.

One of the things I most liked about his poems was the fact that so many of them are spoken by people other than the poet himself. In “As it should be”, for instance, we are brought into the mind of a cold-blooded kill who “hunted the mad bastard through bog, moorland, rock, to the starlit west”. Mahon allows us, chillingly, to see this brutal and murderous act from the perpetrator’s point of view and to perhaps even begin to understand how his desire to protect his children might have led him to commit this crime. All he wanted, he declared, was for the community’s children to “grow up with a world of method in it”

“After the Titanic”, also surprises us by presenting that well-known tragedy from an unfamiliar point of view. Here, we are taken into the mind of Bruce Ismay,the ship’s manager who was “Humbled at the inquiry” into that tragic incident and declared to be the villain of the piece. Mahonallows us to witness first hand the suffering and humiliation this man endured as his “costly life” went “thundering down” into the oceans bottom, and I felt real emotion when he beseeches us to “include me in your lamentations”

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