Matthew Sweeney 1952-2018

Tributes have been paid to Matthew Sweeney, who has died from motor neurone disease.

Matthew Sweeney was born in Donegal and lived in Cork. He was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Forward Prize, and received a Cholmondeley Award and an Arts Council Writers’ Award. He was joint second in the National Poetry Competition 2010. He co-edited several poetry anthologies and co-authored, Writing Poetry (Hodder), with John Hartley Williams and co-edited, with Jo Shapcott, the anthology Emergency Kit. My Life As A Painter was published by Bloodaxe Books just four months ago and previous collections include Inquisition Lane, published by Bloodaxe in 2015, Horse Music (winner of the inaugural Piggott Poetry Prize), Black Moon, Sanctuary and The Bridal Suite. His children’s collections include Up on the Roof, The Flying Spring Onion and The Night Post

Charles Simic said of Matthew Sweeney’s poems: “here are the small and great truths of the imagination that bursts forth out of our daily lives.”

‘The Red Helicopter’ was published in The Poetry Review, spring issue, 2016.

Who authorised the red helicopter
to fly over the city, and stay
buzzing there, cruising in wide
slow circles, like a giant vulture?

The noise crashed into my sleep
yesterday morning before I knew
what it was, then when I realised,
I looked out and saw nothing

though the blades kept whirring,
getting louder, then quieter, but
never stopping – they wouldn’t until
they’d found what they were looking for.

I ducked under them to go into town
to buy the dinner. A cloud emptied
so I taxied home, and heard a search
was on for a sixty-three-year-old man.

I was that man but what had I done?
Had I killed someone and not noticed?
I went into the kitchen, played Coltrane
so loud it silenced the helicopter.

I also attacked the Scottish malt.
This morning the noise whacked me again,
so I ripped the shutters open, and
there it was, big and red in the sky.

It was hovering right above the house.
There was no hiding-place anymore.
I pulled on my kimono, marched out,
barefoot, onto the terrace, to stand there.

Bloodaxe Books has published a full obituary and tribute on their website. 

6 August 2018