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Saturday, 24 March 2007

Congratulations to Derek Mahon

Eyewear is glad to report that Derek Mahon, the Irish poet, pictured, has been awarded The David Cohen Prize for Literature at an award ceremony hosted by the British Library on March 22. According to the prize's site:

"this biennial prize, valued by writers as the most coveted literary award in the British Isles .... is awarded to a writer from the UK or Ireland in recognition of a lifetime’s achievement in literature. The winner of the 2007 David Cohen Prize for Literature will be presented with a cheque for £40,000. ... The winner of the David Cohen Prize is selected by a panel of judges comprising distinguished authors, literary critics and academics. The prize does not accept submissions, nor does it publish a shortlist. The panel for 2007, chaired by the Poet Laureate, Professor Andrew Motion, includes Liz Calder, Anne Enright, Jackie Kay, Hilary Mantel, Rt Hon Lord Chris Smith, Sir Peter Stothard, Boyd Tonkin and Jeremy Treglown. ... Previous winners of the David Cohen Prize for Literature are V S Naipaul (1993), Harold Pinter (1995), Muriel Spark (1997), William Trevor (1999), Doris Lessing (2001), Beryl Bainbridge and Thom Gunn (joint winners, 2003). In 2005 Michael Holroyd became the first biographer to win the prize."

Mahon is a worthy winner, author of several good poems that will last. His winning of the prize sees a kind of (fitting) closure of acceptance within the circle of friends (The Belfast Group) that comprised Heaney, Longley and Mahon. Heaney has the Nobel, Longley the Queen's Gold Medal, and Mahon the Cohen.

It now remains for the jury in 2009 to seriously consider the presiding genius of contemporary English poetry, Geoffrey Hill, worthy of such an accolade.


As an aside, Mahon was very kind to me, when my first collection, Budavox, was being prepared for publication in 1999. He was shown the poems in the manuscript, and, through a mutual friend in Dublin, agreed to write a brief quote for the cover, which read "Swift is a voice for our times" - which I have always felt was a delightfully witty double-edged sword, echoing as it does Ben Jonson's "not of an age, but for all time".
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