Derek Mahon, the Belfast-born poet who has died at the age of 78, was part of 'The Group', a number of young, mostly Northern Irish poets including Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon.
Often regarded as the beginning of a wonderful period in Irish poetry, members of The Group often gathered at the home of Queen's University lecturer Philip Hobsbaum. However, Mahon disputed the significance of the period, saying that the way the story was often told they were "terrified provincial ignoramuses who needed someone from Cambridge to get us going".
Whatever his own motivation, he is recognised as having produced one of the most impressive and extensive body of works in Irish poetry in the last 50-plus years.
Born in 1941, the only child of a working-class Church of Ireland couple, he was a talented chorister, which introduced him to metre and rhyme.
One event in his early life which had a long-lasting effect on him was discovering a revolver in the home of an uncle who was a member of the B Specials. In a biography of Mahon, author Stephen Enniss said the discovery deeply marked the young boy.
After leaving Skegoneill Primary School he went to Royal Belfast Academical Institution where he wrote his first poetry, hinting at the greatness which was to come.
He attended Trinity College in Dublin where, according to the biography, he was expelled twice for poor attendance at lectures. However, it was at Trinity that he decided to devote his life to poetry.
While it was a decision that won him extensive awards including the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry (1990); The Irish Times-Aer Lingus Poetry Prize (1992); the David Cohen Prize for Literature (2007); and a three-time winner of the Irish Times Poetry Now award, it led to domestic upheaval. He was often short of money and battled alcoholism.
During the 1960s and 1970s he travelled extensively to England, France, Belgium, Germany, Canada and the USA.
Like many Northern Ireland poets, he was often questioned about his political views but he refused to be tied to one position. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper he admitted that, while growing up, he and his friends would have regarded themselves as anti-unionist, but that was mostly because they were anti-establishment. He remained neutral on Irish politics but many of his early poems explored the Northern Ireland Protestant mindset.
His early works Twelve Poems, the much acclaimed Night-Crossing, Lives, The Snow Party, Courtyards in Delft and Antarctica, were followed by a period of writer's block until a burst of four award-winning collections in five years during the new century - Harbour Lights, Somewhere The Wave, Life On Earth and An Autumn Wind.
Mahon also worked as a journalist for the BBC, New Statesman and, briefly, Vogue, as a translator and a screenwriter for television. His final collection, Washing Up, is published this month.
Described as a 'master poet' and a 'pure artist', Mahon spent a year as writer in residence at Ulster University in Coleraine. He later moved to Kinsale in Co Cork where he lived for several decades until his death on Thursday night.
He is survived by his partner Sarah Iremonger and his three children, Rory, Katy and Maisie.