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Raul Zurita

The Chilean poet Raul Zurita has been awarded Latin America’s greatest literary distinction, the Queen Sofia Ibero-American Poetry Prize for work in Spanish or Portuguese, sanctioned by Spain’s National Heritage and the University of Salamanca. Raul Zurita, born in Santiago in 1950, has long been recognised as a major figure, author of Canto a su amor desaparecido (Song to their disappeared love) which engaged directly with the cruel politics of the Pinochet years, Purgatorio (Purgatory), La Nueva Vida (New Life), El paraiso esta vacio (Heaven is empty) and Canto de los rios que se aman (Song of the loving rivers). Chilean poetry has been rich in the last hundred years with Pablo Neruda, Vicente Huidobro, Nicanor Parra and – Zurita. He has previously been awarded the Chilean awards, the Pablo Neruda Prize (1988), the National Prize for Literature (2000); and also the Cuban Casa de las Americas Prize for Poetry (Jose Lezama Lima Prize, 2006). Previous poets to receive the Queen Sofia include Juan Gelman (Argentina), Nicanor Parra (Chile), Mario Benedetti (Uruguay) and Alvaro Mutis (Colombia).

Everything Is Going to Be Alright

John McAuliffe writes: Derek Mahon, the doyen of Irish poets, has died at his home in Kinsale, Co. Cork.

Born in Belfast in 1941, Mahon attended Inst, before moving to Dublin, where he studied English and French at Trinity College, and hot-housed his own poetic development alongside contemporaries including Michael Longley and Eavan Boland. His first book, Night Crossing (1968), brought together poems written in Dublin and on his travels in Canada and the United States, and was unusually well received. It was his two 1970s collections Lives (1972) and The Snow Party (1975) which exhilarated readers and inspired generations of younger poets.

Glitteringly allusive, charming, formally commanding but willing to slough off big stanzas whenever the poems called for it, they epitomise the idea that poets could just go on their nerve. Their resonant, startling title poems felt as if they have always already existed, and others too, ‘The Last of the Fire Kings’, ‘Afterlives’, the poem ‘Dog Days’ which was lately renamed ‘J.P. Donleavy’s Dublin’, ‘A Disused Shed in Co Wexford’ – each of them as lucid as they are ornately made. Long perspectives intrude without demolishing tonal clarity: these poems seemed to emerge from a Byzantium-like otherworld, seeing and knowing more than anyone else, alienated but with seemingly perfect recall, casting light and, just as coolly, throwing shade.

During the 1970s, Mahon had lived mostly in London, freelancing for various journals including Vogue and The Listener, adapting novels for TV and radio. Suffering from alcoholism, and the breakdown of his marriage, he published The Hunt by Night in 1982 and the first of his many books with The Gallery Press, Courtyards in Delft, whose title poem’s switching of perspectives still astonishes: ‘I must be lying low in a room there / A strange child with a taste for verse, / While my hardnosed companions dream of war.’

Mahon worked at a number of universities during the 1980s and 1990s in the United Kingdom,

Northern Ireland and the United States, but his writing stalled. Slowly he re-emerged, publishing two books which marked a turn towards a more relaxed, conversational style, The Yellow Book and The Hudson Letter, as well as plays (performed widely at venues including the National Theatre and the Gate) and essays, which collected old reviews, but new work too. His interest in translation, mostly from French, persisted, ‘adaptations’ of classic Baudelaire poems, classic versions of Philippe Jaccottet, and exploratory introductions to Francophone African poets, among many others.

Mahon moved back to Dublin and then in 2003 to Kinsale, a seaside town he had first visited as a student when he delivered an Afghan hound to Hedli MacNeice. Her famous restaurant The Spinnaker was part of the fishing town’s rebirth as a busy, tourist-friendly resort. It became his refuge – he very rarely gave readings, disliking the circus of the literary festival and, after his early peregrinations, travelled less and less.

In Kinsale, he became fluent again: coastal sounds (rock music he called it, more than once), sealight and the endlessly changing cloudscapes, as well as a particular genius for biographical poems (Coleridge, Jean Rhys, Palinurus, Montaigne, terrific poems about his contemporaries, Heaney, Longley, Montague, Ciaran Carson) mark an acclaimed series of new books, two of which, Harbour Lights (2006) and Life on Earth (2009), won the Irish Times/Poetry Now Prize, while he revised earlier work for a number of Collected, Selected, New Collected and New Selected Poems. His work became a staple of Irish high school anthologies, and one in particular, ‘Everything Is Going to Be Alright’, went viral when it was broadcast on the national

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