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Monday, May 23, 2011

Derek Mahon, New Collected Poems

I do this kind of thing so you don’t have to: really, I do. Getting my copy of Derek Mahon’s New Collected Poems in the post in the morning, the first thing I did was sit down with a copy of the old Collected Poems and his three volumes since then (Harbour Lights, Life On Earth and An Autumn Wind) and compare contents pages. From this I learned:

The poem most recently called ‘In Carrowdore Churchyard’ is now called ‘Carrowdore’; ‘De Quincey in Later Life’ is now ‘De Quincey at Grasmere’; ‘The Forger’ has gone missing; ‘Thinking of Inis Oírr in Cambridge, Mass.’ is now ‘Inis Oírr’; ‘How to Live’ has gone missing; ditto ‘Ovid in Love’; ditto ‘from The Drunken Barge’; ‘North Wind: Portrush’ is now ‘North Wind’; ‘Morning Radio’ is now ‘Radio Days’; ‘After Pasternak’ has gone missing; ‘Achill’ is now ‘Beyond the Pale’; ‘October in Hyde Park’ has gone missing; ditto ‘Night Drive’; ditto ‘An Orphan at the Door’; ditto ‘The Race’; ditto ‘Galatea’; ‘The Yaddo Letter’ is now ‘Yaddo, or A Month in the Country’; ‘The Hudson Letter’ (a whole book title, dagnabbit) is now ‘New York Time’; ‘The Yellow Book’ (a whole book title, double-dagnabbit) is now ‘Decadence’; ‘Night and Day’ has gone missing; ditto ‘Michelangelo’; ditto ‘A Dirge’; ditto ‘A Siren’; ditto ‘Stanzas for Mary Stuart’ [old Collected Poems ends]; no sign of ‘Lucretius on Clouds’ (Harbour Lights); ditto for ‘High Water’; ditto for ‘Langue d’Oc’; ditto for ‘A Game of Cards’; ditto for ‘The Enchanted Wood’; ‘Shorelines’ now ‘Sand Studies’; no sign of ‘Red Cloud’; ditto for ‘White Cloud’; ditto for ‘On the Beach’; ditto for ‘The Seaside Cemetery’; ditto for ‘Ariadne on Naxos’ (Life on Earth); ditto for ‘The Lady from the Sea’; ditto for ‘The Clifden Road’; ditto for ‘Sceilig Bay’ (from An Autumn Wind); ditto for ‘An Aspiring Spirit’; ditto for ‘Antrim Road’; ditto for ‘Romance’.

Which leaves the following new items: ‘Monochrome’, ‘Here in Tenerife’, ‘The One-Thirty’, ‘Shandon Bridge’, and ‘Dreams of a Summer Night’.

His collected translations and versions, Adaptations, accounts for most but not all of those absentees, but as with Mahon’s many previous selections from his own work there is no indication of which poems come from what book, and no notes. This I’m assuming is by authorial choice, not that I’m saying volumes like this should all sprouting bearing thickets of apparatus. There is an index of titles and of first lines, unlike in Collected Poems.

As for changes to the actual text of the poems, well, go find out for yourselves. Though I notice from the very first of the renamed poems I look at (‘Sand Studies’) that it boasts two stanzas not in the previous version...

There, happy now?


Tim Kendall said...

Has there ever been a poet so determined to destroy his own achievement?

Except for Virgil trying to chuck it on the fire.

puthwuth said...

'What devil has got into John Crowe Ransom' as reference point here, perhaps?

Peter said...

Great collection Love the melancholy. Am fond of the poem "Leaves".

Anonymous said...

Re 'Leaves'(also one of my favourites):

Mahon has replaced "stadium" with "forest," which is simply less resonant and less memorable. Why?

Terry Kelly.

puthwuth said...

When Auden cancelled 'Spain 1937' from his oeuvre or wrote 'This is a lie' in the margin beside the lines 'History to the defeated /May say Alas but cannot help or pardon' there seemed something large at stake, whatever we think of the choices he made. These changes by contrast seem to me footling and trivial in motivation, but with serious and even disastrous results. If these poems were children, there might be a case for social services getting involved. Not good, in summary.

Peter said...

I prefer the change to "forest".

Anonymous said...

Oh, and no more 'Kensington Notebook', as an Irish Times review has just pointed out.