We travel to Northern Ireland. Derek Mahan (b. 1941)’s poetry has been compared to Louis MacNeice and W.D. Auden. Some critics have called it ‘too controlled’. I found this poem worth reading, with an attribution to yet another famous Irish poet:
(for Seamus Heaney)
First time outI was a torc of goldAnd wept tears of the sun.That was funBut they buried meIn the earth two thousand yearsTill a labourerTurned me up with a pickIn eighteen fifty-four.Once I was an oarBut stuck in the shoreTo mark the place of a graveWhen the lost shipSailed away. I thoughtOf Ithaca, but soon decayed.The time that I likedBest was whenI was a bump of clayIn a Navaho rug,Put there to mitigateThe too god-likePerfection of thatMerely human artifact.I served my maker well —He lived longTo be struck down inDenver by an electric shockThe night the lightsWent out in EuropeNever to shine again.So many lives,So many things to remember!I was a stone in Tibet,A tongue of barkAt the heart of AfricaGrowing darker and darker . . .It all seemsA little unreal now,Now that I amAn anthropologistWith my ownCredit card, dictaphone,Army-surplus bootsAnd a whole boatloadOf photographic equipment.I know too muchTo be anything any more;And if in the distantFuture someoneThinks he has once been meAs I am today,Let him reviseHis insolent ontologyOr teach himself to pray.
With Tibet and Africa (heart of darkness) he makes this truly international. But now he is an anthropologist, who feels it is unreal, all these many things to remember. So he is not anything anymore, a rather existentialist anthropologist.