Derek Mahon, whose poem consoled during pandemic, dies at 78

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LONDON (AP) — Northern Ireland-born poet Derek Mahon, whose verse brought consolation to many during the coronavirus pandemic, has died, his publisher said. He was 78.

Mahon’s publisher, Gallery Press, announced his death on Friday. Irish media said he died Thursday at his home in Kinsale, southwest Ireland, after a short illness.

One of Mahon’s poems, “Everything Is Going to be Alright,” gained new fame when it was read at the end of Ireland’s main news program in March as the coronavirus outbreak took hold. Mahon’s description of looking out a window at daybreak and reflecting that “the sun rises in spite of everything” struck a chord with many anxious people.

Born in Belfast in 1941, Mahon studied at Trinity College Dublin and published his first collection, “Twelve Poems,” in 1965. He first drew major attention in 1968 with the collection “Night-crossing.”

He went on to produce poems that combined classical allusion and vivid everyday detail, and explored history, conflict and personal demons. Some, including “A Disused Shed in County Wexford,” are among Ireland’s best-known verses.

Poetry Ireland said that “his influence in the Irish poetry community, literary world and society at large, and his legacy, is immense.”

Irish President Michael D. Higgins said Mahon was a poet who “could draw on an easy familiarity with the classics, but who brought to them a wit and freshness that was both perceptive and provocative in equal measure.”

“The loss of Derek Mahon, yet another artist gone from us in recent times, is like the falling of oak trees. We are left with hope from the fruit of the acorns in which the writing and its encouragement represents as legacy,” said Higgins, himself a poet.

Mahon is survived by his partner, Sarah Iremonger, and three children.

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