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Derek Mahon, “Life on Earth” – “Homage to Gaia”

It seems too late to write a review of Life on Earth, though Pound did once define poetry as news that stays news. Anyway, as a volume it’s given me steadily renewed pleasure for nearly two years now.

The “Homage to Gaia” sequence in particular seems to me to show a kind of greatness that is almost opposite in nature to the kind that we find in Mahon’s earlier work, for all its continuities with that earlier work in terms of preoccupation and theme.

It’s partly a matter of sheer technical mastery. Again, there is continuity as well as difference. Mahon has … Continue Reading

Young minds

One of the biggest thrills of being a teacher is simply watching powerful young minds engage. You’ve set a poetry task, say. The boys have started writing and know that they have to finish in five minutes (I’ve learned from classes by Cliff Yates and Peter Sansom that giving sharp, pressurising deadlines can drive brilliant breakthroughs). Heads lie on tables , eyes fix sideways on moving nibs, pens are chewed, everyone is busy. One or two stand out though. A weird kind of stillness comes over them – a stillness that quivers with inner movement. They’re like hunting dogs or … Continue Reading