Negotiating Home in the Work of Derek Mahon and Sarah Kirsch

  • Nicola Thomas
Part of the Geocriticism and Spatial Literary Studies book series (GSLS)


Derek Mahon and Sarah Kirsch share a cultural affiliation with the politically ‘divided’ spaces of Ireland and Germany respectively. This chapter examines the representations of these spaces in their poetry, showing how these representations participate in and contribute to discourses of home, community and world. Conspicuously absent in both cases is the ‘grand narrative’ of national identity or overt political affiliation. Instead, both poets consciously pay attention to alternative spaces—the overlooked, marginalised and quotidian—as a means of subverting dominant discourses. The work of Bachelard, a key influence on Mahon in particular, provides a theoretical context for their discussion of domestic space, and de Certeau’s theories of the practices of everyday life help to make sense of their rejection of established, normative spatial representations.


  1. Blickle, Peter. 2004. Heimat: A Critical Theory of the German Idea of Homeland. New York: Camden House.Google Scholar
  2. Boa, Elizabeth, and Rachel Palfreyman. 2000. Heimat—A German Dream: Regional Loyalties and National Identity in German Culture 1890–1990. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, Terence. 1985. Interview with Derek Mahon. Poetry Ireland Review 14: 11–19.Google Scholar
  4. Burton, Brian. 2004. “A Forest of Intertextuality”: The Poetry of Derek Mahon. Doctoral thesis, University of Durham, Durham.Google Scholar
  5. de Certeau, Michel. 2011. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven Rendall. Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cosentino, Christine. 1990. Ein Spiegel mit mir darin: Sarah Kirschs Lyrik. Tübingen: Francke.Google Scholar
  7. Dolan, Jay P. 2010. The Irish Americans: A History. New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  8. Dwyer-Ryan, Meaghan. 2012. Irish Catholics and Irish-Catholic Americans, 1940–Present. In Immigrants in American History: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration, ed. Elliott Robert Barkan, 1011–1020. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.Google Scholar
  9. Felsmann, Barbara. 2003. Beim kleinen Trompeter habe ich immer geweint: Kindheit in der DDR, Erinnerungen an die Jungen Pioniere. Berlin: Lukas.Google Scholar
  10. Haughton, Hugh. 2007. The Poetry of Derek Mahon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Kirsch, Sarah. 1977. Landaufenthalt. Ebenhausen bei München: Langewiesche-Brandt.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 1997. Ein Gespräch mit Sarah Kirsch. In Hundert Gedichte, 123–134. Ebenhausen bei München: Langewiesche-Brandt.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 2013. Sämtliche Gedichte. Munich: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2014. Ice Roses: Selected Poems. Translated by Anne Stokes. Manchester: Carcanet.Google Scholar
  15. Mabee, Barbara. 1989. Die Poetik von Sarah Kirsch: Erinnerungsarbeit und Geschichtbewusstsein. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  16. Mabey, Richard, and Iain Sinclair. 2010. The Unofficial Countryside. Dorchester: Little Toller Books.Google Scholar
  17. Mahon, Derek. 1968. Night-Crossing. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 1972. Lives. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 1975. The Snow Party. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 1996. An Honest Ulsterman. In Journalism: Selected Prose 1970–1995, ed. Terence Brown, 92–94. Loughcrew: Gallery Press.Google Scholar
  21. Nora, Pierre. 1996. Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past. Edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman and translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Vol. 1, 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. 2011. Northern Ireland Census 2011: Historic Population Trends (1841 to 2011)—Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
  23. Symmons Roberts, Michael, and Paul Farley. 2012. Edgelands. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  24. Wilson, David A., ed. 2009. Irish Nationalism in Canada. Montreal; Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press.Google Scholar
  25. Wroe, Nicholas. 2006. Interview: Derek Mahon: “A Sense of Place”. Guardian. Accessed 24 August 2016.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.St Hilda’s CollegeUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations