Matthew Sweeney (1952-2018) was born in Lifford, Co. Donegal, Ireland. He moved to London in 1973 and studied at the Polytechnic of North London and the University of Freiburg. After living in Berlin and Timisoara for some years, he returned to Ireland and settled in Cork. He died in August 2018 from motor neurone disease.
His poetry collections include: A Dream of Maps (1981), A Round House (1983), The Lame Waltzer (1985) from Allison & Busby / Raven Arts Press; Blue Shoes (1989) and Cacti (1992) from Secker & Warburg; The Bridal Suite (1997), A Smell of Fish (2000), Selected Poems (2002), Sanctuary (2004) and Black Moon (2007) from Jonathan Cape; The Night Post: A Selection (Salt, 2010); Horse Music (2013), Inquisition Lane (2015), My Life as a Painter (2018) and Shadow of the Owl (2020) from Bloodaxe; and King of a Rainy Country (2018) from Arc, a book of prose poems set in Paris, and responding to Baudelaire’s Le Spleen de Paris.
Black Moon was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. Horse Music won the inaugural Pigott Poetry Prize in association with Listowel Writers’ Week, and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Shadow of the Owl is a Poetry Book Society Wild Card Choice for Winter 2020. He also published editions of selected poems in Canada (Picnic on Ice, Vehicule Press, 2002) and two translated by Jan Wagner in Germany, Rosa Milch (Berlin Verlag, 2008) and Hund und Mond (Hanser Berlin, 2017). Jan Wagner’s German translation of Shadow of the Owl is forthcoming from Hanser Berlin.
He won a Cholmondeley Award in 1987 and an Arts Council Writers' Award in 1999. He also published poetry for children, with collections including The Flying Spring Onion (1992), Fatso in the Red Suit (1995) and Up on the Roof: New and Selected Poems (2001). His novels for children include The Snow Vulture (1992) and Fox (2002). He edited The New Faber Book of Children's Poems (2003) and Walter De la Mare: Poems (2006) for Faber; co-edited Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times (Faber, 1996) with Jo Shapcott; and co-wrote Writing Poetry (Teach Yourself series, Hodder, 1997) and the comic novel Death Comes for the Poets (Muswell Press, 2012) with John Hartley Williams.
Matthew Sweeney held residencies at the University of East Anglia and the South Bank Centre in London, and was Poet in Residence at the National Library for the Blind as part of the Poetry Places scheme run by the Poetry Society in London. He was writer-in-residence at University College Cork in 2012-13, and was a member of Aosdána.
Author photo: John Minihan
Books by Matthew Sweeney