Harbour Lights


Derek Mahon

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The long, wide-ranging poems here (‘Resistance Days’, ‘Calypso’, ‘Harbour Lights’ itself) are interspersed with penetrating glances and a series of dazzling translations which enhance and extend their traditions; his version of ‘The Seaside Cemetery’ is a masterpiece. Together they form a book of rare organic unity and distinction. The author’s resolution to study ‘clouds and their formation’ and his concentration on ‘the real thing’ affirm aesthetic values in a violent time. Remembering ‘lives in a former life’ and celebrating ‘the redemptive power of women’, his work is unique in its verve and fluency. Harbour Lights is an act of faith, and a triumph.


‘Mahon’s fascination with stanzaic form serves him well here. It has brought him many imitators, but few so far have managed to create the kind of richly furnished echo chambers which have gradually come to typify the work of his maturity . . . Political, metaphysical, journalistic, sensual, minutely but lightly observant, imaginatively omnivorous, memorable, this is poetry of an order the reader feels lucky to encounter . . . At once diverse and unified, this finely orchestrated book adds new riches and new depths to Derek Mahon’s considerable art.’

— Seán O’Brien, Times Literary Supplement


‘. . . one of our greatest poets now enjoying a renewed lease of life.’

John Fanning, Sunday Business Post


‘. . . all the poignant clarity of his great early books and the shrewd dismay of the later books.’

Adam Phillips, The Guardian Books of the Year

‘. . . a treasure trove of sensory perception, intelligence, verbal invention, moral discernment, and wit, plus highly readable access to pleasure and happiness.’

— Alfred Corn, Contemporary Poetry Review

Winner of The Irish Times Poetry Now Award 2006

‘wonderful flexibility and tonal command, drawing on a range of literary cultures in its commentary on the present and its imagination of the future’.

— Judges’ citation

Year Published: 2005
Details: 80pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 384 1
ISBN ebook: 978 1 91133 741 6