Collection cited for 'wonderful flexibility and tonal command'

Fri, Mar 24, 2006, 00:00

The winner of this year's Irish Times Poetry Now Award, announced last night, is Derek Mahon for his collection Harbour Lights (Gallery).

The announcement was made at the opening of the Poetry Now festival in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Mahon received €5,000 in prize money for his winning collection.

Chosen from a shortlist of five poetry collections published in the past year, Mahon's Harbour Lights was the unanimous choice of the judges who praised the collection for its "wonderful flexibility and tonal command, drawing on a range of literary cultures in its commentary on the present and its imagination of the future".

The other nominated collections - selected from a longlist of 39 books - were: The Instruments of Art by John F Deane (Carcanet); To A Fault by Nick Laird ( Faber); The State of the Prisons by Sinead Morrissey (Carcanet), and Fiction by Conor O'Callaghan (The Gallery Press).

Derek Mahon was born in Belfast in 1941, studied at Trinity College Dublin, and the Sorbonne, and has held journalistic and academic posts in London and New York.

A member of Aosdána, he has received numerous awards including The Irish Times/Aer Lingus Poetry Prize, the Irish Academy of Letters Award, the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize, and Lannan and Guggenheim fellowships.

His publications include Night Crossing, Lives, Snow Party, The Hudson Letter, The Yellow Book, Words in the Air (bilingual, with the French of Philippe Jaccottet), and Birds (a translation of Oiseaux by Saint-John Perse), as well as dramatic versions of Molière's The School for Wives and High Time, Racine's Phaedra, The Bacchae (after Euripides), Cyrano de Bergerac, and Oedipus (all published by The Gallery Press). His Collected Poems was published by Gallery in 1999.

The judges were Patrick Crotty, professor of Scottish and Irish Studies at the University of Aberdeen; poet Gerard Fanning and Fiona Sampson, poet, translator and editor of Poetry Review in London.

'Things' (for Jane)

It rained for years when I was young. I sat there as in the old pop song and stared at a lonely avenue like everybody else I knew until, one day, the sun came out. I too came out, to shout and sing and see what it was all about. Oh yes, I remember everything.

Derek Mahon from Harbour Lights