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Matthew Sweeney was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1952. In 1973, he went to London to study at Polytechnic College; this was followed in 1977/78 by a year spent studying in Freiburg, where he concentrated on German literature. Since the early eighties, he has published several volumes of poetry, most recently "Selected Poems" (2002) and "Sanctuary" (2004).

From the beginning, his work has had a special standing in English-speaking poetry: belonging to Irish poetic tradition, but also displaying the enduring influence of his study of German authors from Romanticism to the present day (Kleist, Büchner, Trakl, Kafka, Huchel, Grass, Böll etc.). In his poems, Matthew Sweeney closely examines the complexity of the apparently banal and often proves a merciless chronicler of misfortune and everyday tragedies.

The stylistic reserve and dramatic grace with which he draws the reader into the inner life of his poetry is one of the characteristic features of Sweeney's lyric work. At the latest, he found his now unmistakable voice with the third collection of poetry, the book "The Lame Waltzer", which appeared in 1995. It employs a laconic style largely free of decorative elements, avoiding everything metaphorical. Less interested in figurative questions than in what he – together with the Croatian-American poet Charles Simic – calls "European darkness", Sweeney began to concentrate on the development of a realism of his own. This "alternative realism" – along with the anti-lyrical mood, and often a smattering of black humour – is a further trademark of his poems. His literary cosmos has also been characterised as "Catholicism without God, or even before God" (Sean O'Brien), in which heathen superstition and a vague sense of the ominous mutually inflame one another without the domesticating influence of a theological instance, thus creating a world that remains mysterious and ludicrous.

Sweeney has received numerous prizes, including the Cholmondeley Award (1987) and the Arts Council of England Writers' Award (1999). His poems have already been published in Slovakia, Latvia, Mexico, Rumania, Germany and the Netherlands.

Besides his lyric works, Matthew Sweeney has also edited several anthologies and written children's books, most recently "Fox" (2002; Fuchs, 2003), the story of a friendship between a schoolboy and a homeless man.

"Sweeney's poems are reflective, funny, supremely inventive and impeccably written. This is contemporary poetry at its very best." (Charles Simic)

"Matthew Sweeney has created a body of work which will last …" (Mark Robinson, Leviathan Quarterly)


Print
Publications in German Translation
Fuchs. With drawings by Christopher Corr. Translated from the English by Cornelia Krutz-Arnold. Bloomsbury Kinderbücher & Jugendbücher, Berlin 2003
English Language Publications
Poetry Collections
A Dream of Maps. Raven Arts Press 1981
A Round House. Allison and Busby 1983
The Lame Waltze. Allison and Busby 1988
Blue Shoes. Secker and Warburg 1989
Cacti. Secker and Warburg 1992
The Bridal Suite. Jonathan Cape 1997
A Smell of Fish. Cape Poetry 2000
Selected Poems. Cape 2002
A Picnic on Ice: Selected Poems. Vehicule Press 2002
Sanctuary. Jonathan Cape 2004
Irish Poems. Macmillan Children's Books 2005
Works for Children
The Chinese Dressing-Gown. Raven Arts Press 1987
The Flying Spring Onion. Faber and Faber 1992
The Snow Vulture. Faber and Faber 1994
Fatso in the Red Suit. Faber and Faber 1995
Up on the Roof. Faber Children's Books 2001
The New Faber Book Of Children's Verse. Faber and Faber 2001
Fox. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC 2002
As an Editor
Teach Yourself: Writing Poetry. McGraw-Hill 1995
Emergency Kit, Poems for Strange Times. Faber and Faber 1996
Beyond Bedlam: Poems Written Out of Mental Distress. Anvil Press Poetry 1998
The New Faber Book of Children's Poems. Faber Children's Books 2003
Walter De la Mare: Poems Selected by Matthew Sweeney. Faber and Faber 2006
Events by DAAD
"Prosa ist Gehen, aber Lyrik ist Tanzen." (Paul Valéry)

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