Life on Earth


Derek Mahon

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Given a choice of worlds, here or beyond, I’d pick this one not once but many times . . .
— from ‘Homage to Goa’

The publication of a new book of poems by Derek Mahon is a momentous occasion. Life on Earth collects, and adds to, work which has appeared recently in limited editions. It opens with celebrations of notable exemplars: Coleridge, Chekhov, the novelist Brian Moore. This echo poetry extends to ‘Art Notes’ on Hopper, de Staël and others, followed by the eco-poetry of the ‘Homage to Gaia’ sequence on environmental themes. A substantial and positive volume distinguished by its light touch, Life on Earth is the work of a supreme artist.

Clear, unerring, reverberating; a genuine original.’
— W S Merwin

Derek Mahon is also reporting back in his new collection, Life on Earth, with its homages to the natural world, warnings against our ecological delinquency in a timeless future and praises for the comforts of local replenishment (in India and in Ireland) as in the suitably Audenesque At Ursula’s, where ‘we bow to our warm plates’.

— Gerald Dawe, The Irish Times Books of the Year

Another storm-tossed Greek on extended shore-leave from Kinsale to Goa is Derek Mahon, whose magical Life on Earth is an act of thanksgiving, a re-rooting of the self in the biosphere.

— Harry Clifton, The Irish Times

Winner of the Irish Times/Poetry Now Award 2009

Shortlisted for the 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize

“Formal grace, uncluttered diction, and sprightliness of movement lend Derek Mahon’s new poems a musicality and memorability which is intensified by their visionary gaze and their poignant yearning for unspoiled and unsoiled places: ‘blue skies, / clear water, scattered light’. His light-filled work celebrates the sun’s life-sustaining powers; yet he also fears the heat of the sun in the context of global warming: ‘Sea levels rising annually, / glaciers sliding fast, / species extinct . . .’ Mahon is drawn to the lives, worlds and work of other artists; a vivid bio-poem, retracing Coleridge’s life, and an atmospheric poem evoking the post-war Belfast of the novelist Brian Moore are set alongside elegant versions of Ovid [the desolate ‘Ariadne on Naxos’] and Ibsen [the haunting and unsettling ‘The Lady from the Sea’]. Visual art features prominently too: a sequence of ‘Art Notes’ re-creates the paintings of Edward Hopper, Howard Hodgkin, René Magritte and others with meticulously-crafted mastery. An outstanding collection from one of Ireland’s most acclaimed poets.”
Citation for Life on Earth — from The Griffin Poetry Prize International Shortlist Awards Programme: 

Year Published: 2008
Details: 64pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 461 9
ISBN ebook: 978 1 85235 591 3