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Mikeharvey

Matthew Sweeney

My bedtime reading over the last few weeks has been the Selected Poems (2002) of MATTHEW SWEENEY, a collection drawn from twenty years work. MS who was born in Donegal is most decidedly one of my favourite contemporary poets.  His poems are narratives, usually beginning quietly, strangely humorous, and ending somewhere odd and quirky.  The last poem in this book ‘Sweeney’ is absolutely typical, in which he tells how he gradually turns into a bird and sits in a tree contemplating his wife’s subsequent life. I could instance dozens of other examples. None of MS’s poems that I’ve read is in the least difficult to understand, his language is lucid and, dread word, ‘accessible’.  I think we’re ready for a new Selected Poems. Maybe there already is one.
                           
The strong man ran away from the circus
because the lion wouldn’t love him.
He wandered into a forest, and began
uprooting trees. A badger stared at him.
An owl woke up. The man ignored both.
He weaved, howling, through the trees
at top speed, sending squirrels scattering,
till he came to a small, circular lake which
he dived into and swam to the centre.
Treading water, he thought of the lion,
its luxurious orange mane, that he’d love
to run his hand through. He even saw
the sharp shiny teeth in the red mouth
he’d thrown live rats into. How could he
have been nicer to the kingly creature?
Fat tears ran down his red-bearded face.
He felt something tugging at his left foot,
stuck his head into the water and saw a
small serpentine monster was trying to
snaffle him. He laughed and punched the
thing on the snout, which set it writhing,
causing a whirlpool to start up which
the man was fortunate to escape from
but he did, and struck out for the shore,
then hauled himself up to lie there, watch-
ing to see what the monster would do.

       Big Readers Forum Index -> All things poetic
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