"We Are as Free as Ever": Derek Mahon’s Recent Poems from the French

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Abstract

Over the last fourteen years, Derek Mahon has published three anthologies of poetic versions, Adaptations (2006), Raw Material (2011), and Echo's Grove (2013), each showcasing the importance of poetic translation in his (recent) work, as well as, conversely, his own importance as a poet-translator in the contemporary Irish literary landscape. Echo's Grove in particular is impressive for its sheer scale, and comprises roughly one hundred and forty versions from a staggering thirteen different languages. Among those languages, French has long been the main linguistic source of the poet's versions. The present article focuses on two recent aspects of Mahon’s work from the French: his versions from Francophone postcolonial poets and from French contemporaries Denis Rigal and Michel Houellebecq. With close analysis of translation strategies, it nuances earlier appraisals of Mahon's French work, which saw in France and French literature a non-Ireland and an imaginative space which the poet could inhabit outside the remits of the literature he inherited by birth. Instead, the article argues, those versions represent not so much an escape, as a way for the poet of looking inward at himself as artist. In other words, under the guise of outwardness, Mahon’s French versions are modes of self-reading.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalIrish Studies Review
Early online date10 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020