Notable for his Irish Times Poetry Now Award-winning collections Harbour Lights (2005) and Life on Earth (2008), Mahon is also recognized for his translations of the work of Moliere,
He published some of his early work in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution's school journal and subsequently studied at both Trinity College, Dublin and Paris' Sorbonne. His first poetry collection, Night Crossing, was published in 1967.
Several of his poems fall into the ekphrasis genre, meaning that they interpret visual artworks through language.
Born into a Protesant, working-class family, he spent his youth in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
His poems' metrical forms resemble those employed by the nineteenth-century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.