Name
Matthew Sweeney
Country
Ireland
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)