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Derek Mahon

Revision Booklet As completed by

5th Year English

Newbridge College


Part 1  Day Trip to Donegal  A Disused Shed in County Wexford  Grandfather Part 2  The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush  Rathlin  Kinsale  Ecclesiastes  Possible essay points.

DAY TRIP TO DONEGAL This poem has a solid structure with six lines in every stanza and 5 stanzas of pure Mahon genius has contributed to a beautifully told story of the deep subconscious. There is a strong contrast in the first and last stanza. ‘clothes to be picked up friends to be seen’ where as in the last stanza he becomes very isolated and alone ‘Without skill or reassurance – nobody to show me how’ In the second stanza the poet focuses more closely on his surrounding, an almost foreboding sense of fear is formed through his mind. Personification is used towards the end of the last stanza ‘in attitudes of agony and heartbreak’. These fish are used as a metaphor for himself. These suggestions of pain and death add to the atmosphere of underlying unease set up in the first stanza

The poet begins to fall deeper into his subconscious as he seems more interested in the return home on not the actual day out at sea. Donegal seems to recede from his consciousness. The 4th stanza becomes almost eerie as it plunges into the terrifying subconscious. Mahon enables us to visualise the physical power and sometimes frightening , atmosphere of dreams.

What is being described here goes well beyond physical fear. It is as if being ‘far out at sea’ is a metaphor for alienation, both physically and spiritually. In this poem we see how Mahon’s imagination works on the ordinary reality of a day trip to a place well known personally by him, and transform it so that we are given an insight into the poets deepest anxieties and fears. Mahon has organised this poem into five stanzas of six lines made up of rhyming couplets with the pattern aabbcc in each. The very regular form of the poem contrasts with the chaotic feelings he expresses in the final stanza.

A Disused Shed in County Wexford  Mahon personifies the mushrooms to evoke empathy in the reader. Their plight is a microcosm for suffering on a larger scale, the ongoing mass torment in the world. Trapped and isolated, they represent millions of people who are oppressed throughout the world, enduring until for the world remembers them.

 Sensuous and evocative imagery in the poem involves the reader, allowing them to participate in the vivid array of sounds, sights and particularly smells.

 Although the poem illustrates those of us who are forgotten among the mass suffering that goes on in the world, it contains a positive aspect in the mushrooms will to stay alive.

 The poem is narrative in structure, combining modern and distant history to indicate suffering through the ages. Mahon’s use of allusion allows the poem to be perceived as referring to domestic or international history.

 This poem admonishes us to honor the past and the people that made the present possible instead of taking it for granted and ignoring any suffering that isn’t ours.

Grandfather Connotations from the title suggest that there is a nostalgic element recurring throughout the poem. The use of vibrant imagery and Mahon’s projection of sounds through words enable us to empathise with him and feel drawn into the poem. “You hear the boots thumping in the hall” Poem is essentially written as a testament to Mahon’s grandfather. He shows a great deal of admiration for this man who has lived a hardworking, industrial life. “Row upon row of gantries rolled”

This Grandfather is no longer concerned with his working life. He has reverted back to his childhood state with actions mimicking that of a child. “Like a four year old”. He struggles to adapt to behaving like a typical elderly person. Depictions of his grandfather in an allusive manner make us feel that this is even more personal to Mahon as he displays obvious in-depth knowledge on the subject of his grandfather. Petrarchan sonnet – gentle rhythm and rhyming pattern suggest light-heartedness and fondness for his grandfather.

Derek Mahon Revision  
Derek Mahon Revision  

Fifth Year Class from Newbridge College present the first in a two part series on Derek Mahon.