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August 12, 2019


#Poetry Derek Mahon (Irish poet)

by N@ncy


Reistance Days  — ( prose poem)  dedicated to John Minihan

  • It is good to know about the person to whom the poem is dedicated.
  • Perhaps it wll help me discover some hidden meaning or references.
  • John Minihan is an Irish photographer, born in Dublin in 1946.
  •  The photos are an attempt to document the lives of the ordinary people.
  • Over the years Minihan developed a close relationship with many writers and his
  • photographs of Samuel Beckett show a particular affinity between the two men.
  • William S. Burroughs once referred to Minihan as “a painless photographer”.


  1. I copied the poem in couplets
  2. ….but Derek Mahon wrote it as a prose poem.
  3. I found the prose-form difficult to read and because of its length
  4. …lost interest.
  5. End rhyme makes the poem so much more enjoyable!
  6. The poem is long
  7. …but not dark or heavy handed
  8. ….just try it!



  1. 1 poem by D. Mahon was more fun to read
  2. …than 3 Crime Fiction thrillers!
  3. #ReadMorePoetry



The sort of snail-mail that can take a week
but suits my method, pre-informatique,

I write this from the St. Louis, rm 14 —
or type it, rather, on the old machine,

a portable, that I take when I migrate
in ‘the run-up to Christmas. Here I sit

amidst the hubbub of the rue de Seine
while a winter fly snores at a window-pane.

Old existentialists, old beats, old punks,
sat here of old; some dedicated drunks

still sing in the marketplace, and out back
there’s an old guy who know Jack Kerouac.

Spring in December now, of course; no doubt
the daffs and daises are already out

and you lot, in the serene post-Christmas lull,
biking the back road between Hob and Schull.

(ref: Schull, West Cork, Ireland)

Here at the heure bleue in the Deux Magots
where as a student I couldn’t afford to go

a gauche and unregenerate anglophone
tongue-tied as ever in my foreign tongue,
stil getting the easiest constructions wrong,

I inhale the fashions of the sexy city,
its streets streaming with electricity,

its wings and roundabouts on the go as ever,
the fly-boats echoing on the floodlit river

when a switch locks and the long boulevard flares
with a thump and flow obscuring moon and stars

In flight from corporate Christendom, this year
I spent the frightful season in Tangier

with spaced-out ‘fiscal nomads’ and ex-pats
or bored by Bowles beneath the sheltering slats,

(ref: book The Sheltering Sky)

bucket and spade under high cloud and sail,
blue and windblown, a sort of vast Kinsale

(ref: Head of Kinsale, Ireland)


— a travel poster as we flutter down
changing at Casablanca in pouring rain

then ocean contours, minaret and soul,
a dribbling fountain, swirling palms, windsock,

a postcard; camels on the beach, black sheep
routinely scattering on the tiny strip,
the flowing script of Royal Air Maroc;

prescribed odours of cedarwood and kif
in the moist oasis of the Hotel du Rif,

swifts diving over the gardens and the port
of course, for even there the birds migrate;

heat-lightning flash photography in the strait,
eight lengths of a cold pool above a white

city at sea; keen cars of Christmas Day
with a lost tribe of Nigerian sans-papiers,

bright migrants from hot Sahara to cold EU
in the leafy English church Sam Beckett knew.

(ref: iconic photo of Beckett (1985) by John Minihan)


I’d uncles down that way in the war years,
a whole raft of Merchant Navy engineers,

northern barbarians on the Barbary Coast
in their white ducks, a far cry from Belfast —

old-movie time of transit visas, bad cheques,
the Dakar fiasco, ‘everyone comes to Rick’s’

ref: movie Casablanca

but the proud Berbers of the west resist
the soul-stealing gaze of the ‘western tourist’

to nurse the experience of a thousand years
beneath a crescent moon and evening stars

— al-‘Dhara, al- ‘Dharan, al-Qa’id and al-Ta’ir
peach-pink Arabian nights, the call to prayer
on Lavery’s dunes and balconies, austere

as antelope or ibex, a light as rare:
you with your Nikon would go crazy there.

A real barbarian, Wyndham Lewis in flight

(ref: 1882-1957, English writer, painter, critic)

from daily mail, tube station and wireless set,

found there the desert ‘blue’ tribes’ he liked best
in the days of the Rif rifles and Beau Geste,

far from fake sheikhery and the coast hotels
exploring qasba art in the lunar hills —

‘the best this side of China, I should say’.
Of course, most things are different since his day:

looking like Katie Tyrrell (1863-1921) and the old folks

(ref: Irish sailor and businesswoman. Born in Arklow in 1863, Ms Tyrrell blazed a trail as the first female ship’s captain. Her father had a shipping company that imported and exported goods between Ireland and Wales. From childhood, Kate could be found around the shipyard learning her father’s trade.

Kete Tyrrell index
in your on ‘sublimely gloomy’  Athy pix,

(ref: Athy is home of photographer Minihan)

as everywhere the filmable populations
have now been framed in shinier compositions,

the open prison of the corporate whole,
for even dissent has long been marketable —

even in the desert of legend and dark myth,
of drought and genocide, what Patti Smith
calls ‘the real earth of Rimbaud,’ no daisies there.

(ref: Patti Smith 1946)

Burroughts and Ginsberg – 9, rue Gít-le-Coeur —
who thought to undermine the monolith
were building new sandcastles in the air.

Back now on the rive gauche and the Pont des Arts
re-reading the works of Bonnefoy and Éluard,
(ref: Bonnefoy 1923-2016 French poet and art historian)
(ref: Éluard 1895-1952, French poet; founder of the surrealist movement)

a flâneur in the dense galaxies of text
yet somehow knowing what to link for next,

I resist Miller’s Quiet Days in Clichy
to browse among the picture books, cliché

(ref: Henry Miller 1891-1980, novella days as ex-pat in Paris)

and time exposure, the once bright machines,
the mirrored nudes like open nectarines,

high-definition fashion, Paris de Nuit,
copperplate silence, cranes at St. Denis,

the soap and tickets, the oblivious snow,
a gargoyle musing on the lights below,

soft-focus studio filter work, the glow
and heartening realism of Robert Doisneau
(ref: 1912-1994, French photographer B/W foto’s streets of Paris)

Les Halles, butcher


(industrial suburbs, the great aerial one
of the Renault plant beside de Bois de Boulogne

pensioners, tramps, young lovers in a park,
a kiss at rush-hour or a dance in the dark);

and on the history shelves the wartime books,
old coats and bicycles, old hat and specs

old sniper rifles, Gloria and Étoile
ripping up tarmac in the place St. Michel;

at the Gare du Nord a 24-hour clock,
clanking transports, faces wreathed in smoke

and the damned logo everywhere you look;
midnight editions, by Gironde or Loire

a distant grumble in the sky some where,
a shaky flashlight piercing night and cloud,
low voices murmuring like owls in a wood.

— Days of resistance, un peu soviétique,
plain Sartre and Beauvoir dancing cheek to cheek!


Now our resistance is to co-optation,
the ‘global project of world domination,

the generative darkness hid from sight
in an earth strung with deterministic light

no more than a ganglion of wires and flex,
crap advertising and commercial sex.

Still skeptical, statistically off-line France
resists the specious arguments most advance,

the digital movies and unnatural nosh,
to stick with real tomatoes, real brioche

and real stars like Adjani and Binoche
‘No art without the resistant of the medium’:




our own resistance to the murderous tedium
of business culture lays claim to the real
as product, no, but as its own ideal —

live seizures in the flux, fortuitous archetypes,
an art as fugitive as the life it snaps

tracing the magic of some primitive place
in the last retrenchment of the human face,

gossip and pigeons, close-ups by Kertész
the young Diana in her London crèche. **

(ref: Kertész 1894-1985, groundbreaking photographic composition)
(most famous photorgraph…”La Forchette” )

(** ref: Poem is dedicated to J. Minihan took the icon foto of Princess Di)

Us snappers-ups of photogenic details,
yourself a snapper of immortal souls,

resist commodity, the ersatz, the cold,
the schrecklichkeit of the post-modern world,

that the sun-writing of our resistance days
shine like Cape Clear glimpsed in a heat-haze

(ref: Irish name: Cape Cléire, lies south-west of County Cork in Ireland.)


After so much neglect, resolved anew,
creative anarchy I come back to you,

not the faux anarchy of media culture
but the real chaos of indifferent nature —

for instance, my own New Year resolution
is to study weather, clouds and their formation,

going straight to video with each new release
untroubled by the ignorant thought police.

I wish you good light or a light in a mist
safe from the critic and the invasive tourist,

a Munster twilight far from the venal roar
where waifs, and strays can beat paths to your door,

unseasonable creatures, ears against the sky,
and timorous things that wouldn’t hurt a fly,

conceptual silence, the best place to live —
Que faire d’une lampe, il pleut, le jour se lève’:

real daylight keeps on breaking, in other words
So, love to Hammond and the karate kids;

(ref:  Minihan and his family, In 1988, John met Hammond Journeaux, a “lovely” woman from New Zealand, at a dinner party in London, who “blessed” him with two sons – Emmet, now 23 and living in London, and 19-year-old Bosco.


down silent paths, in secret hiding places,
the locked out-house that no-one notices,

listening for footfalls by a quiet river
the sun will find us when the worst is over

when everyone is in love, our children laugh
at the gruff bloke snuffling in the epigraph

and in the window-frame a persistent fly
buzzes with furious life which will never die.


Derek Mahon:





Read more from Ireland, poetry
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 13 2019

    I liked it. It reads aloud well ( though I was reading it to the dog who didn’t seem too impressed – but he’s a Philistine anyway!). The references back to Ireland and it’s landscape struck me – as did that rhyme about sovietique and cheek to cheek!!! My favourite section is the sort of polemic about ‘off-line France’ and how it’s food and culture resists the pap we get served up in the UK/US!!! This brightened my early morning dog walk for sure!!!!


    • Aug 13 2019

      Col, you know how sometimes a poem lingers
      …..well, this one woke me up this morning!
      Rain was pelting my roof and around 0500 am I heard a noise…

      “ the window-frame a persistent fly
      buzzes with furious life which will never die.”

      I had to smile and thank Mahon for his poetry!
      PS: managed to get fly OUTSIDE…and saved his life!
      PPS: dogs are great listeners
      ….cats get bored if there is no food involved.


  2. Sep 20 2019

    Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:
    Brilliant- really getting into Mahon. Love the way in which you have illustrated this poem too.He is clearly a real Francophile.


    • Sep 20 2019

      Thank you so much for re-blogging this post. It is much appreciated
      I enjoyed researching the poem….looking for the secrets the poet embedded in the text.



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