Adaptations

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‘. . . a wonderful anthology of versions from Sophocles to Jaccottet and Ní Dhomhnaill . . . ‘I would rather read a new poem by Derek Mahon than anyone else writing in English.’
— Grey Gowrie, The Spectator

Not translations, properly speaking, but versions of their originals, Derek Mahon’s imaginative, recreative and recreational adaptations, done over the years ‘with the idle intensity of doodles’, ask to be read ‘almost like original poems in English, allowing their sources to remain audible’. Many of them started life in previous publications and now reappear, some slightly revised, in a new context. Some are published here for the first time.

The poets represented range from Sophocles to Pasolini, Juvenal to Brecht. There is a large French section which includes a song cycle based on the trobairitz (women troubadours), The Chimeras of Nerval and a much admired version of Valéry, ‘The Seaside Cemetery’. Baudelaire and Pasternak are here, together with a largely recent Rilke group, and the volume concludes with three versions from the Irish of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.

Derek Mahon’s writings are pervaded throughout, and to an unusual degree, by poetic intelligence. Some might feel that there is intellect rather than intelligence in the often dense allusiveness of his later poetry, but they would be wrong. Mahon finds a home, not just a reference library, in the Western poetic tradition which he knows so well. He feels it as much as he thinks about it. His translations reflect a keen awareness of what verbal art is. The details that constitute poetic success do not pass him by, because he has judgement and knows himself. He has dissected his mind and examined every nerve. Still, his new book is called Adaptations . . . It is a way of putting Lowell into our heads . . . A book on a level with Imitations does not turn up every day. Adaptations is such a book.’

– Martin Dodsworth, Agenda

Year Published: 2006
Details: 104pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 404 6

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