NEWS

News: 6 August 2018

Matthew Sweeney Dies, Aged 66
One of Ireland's Finest Poets and a Judge for the Keats-Shelley Prize

Everyone at Keats-Shelley House and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association was deeply saddened by the death of Matthew Sweeney on 5th August, aged 66.

In addition to being one of Ireland's finest modern poets, Matthew had since 1999 been a Poetry Judge for the Keats-Shelley Prize, when he shared duties with Alan Jenkins.

Born in Lifford, County Donegal on 6th October 1952, he lived in Cork, but had previously worked throughout Europe, from London to Romania.

His first collection, A Dream House, was published in 1981, and was followed by A Round House, which won the Piggot Prize, and Blue Shoes. 2007's Black Moon was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and the Poetry Now Award. His most recent publications included Horse Music and Inquisition Lane, and a satirical novel written in collaboration with fellow Keats-Shelley Poetry Judge, John Hartley Williams. Matthew's most recent collection My Life as a Painter was published in April. Speaking to the Irish Examiner at its launch, Matthew who had been suffering from motor neurone disease addressed the topic of death directly: 'Mortality has always been part of the subject of poetry but is best not dealt with too directly. Derek Mahon in his celebrated poem for Albert Camus, Death and the Sun warns about looking at those two fellows head on. Metaphor is one’s ally here, that and imagery. Like most people I prefer not to dwell on my inevitable demise. Where the poems take me is another matter.'

Despite his illness, Matthew attended the most recent Keats-Shelley Awards Ceremony in May.


Matthew Sweeney, centre, with Mary Noonan (left), at 2018's Keats-Shelley Prize Ceremony in London


Poet Theo Dorgan described Matthew as “one of the finest poets of his generation, a craftsman of the highest achievement, with a distinct music all his own”.

'Poetry was his whole life,' said his friend and fellow poet Gerry Murphy. 

'He was a true poet who knew how to place the best words across the white page like first footprints on snow. Even his darkest lines had a twinkle in their eye,' Ian McMillan wrote on Twitter.

The last word belongs to Matthew himself. 'Poetry has been central to my life,' he told the Irish Examiner in April. 'Despite the lack of money it brings, I would do it all over again'

You can read the full Irish Examiner interview here.

Read Matthew's advice to young writers on the Keats-Shelley Blog.

Read his wonderful, sad poem 'Dialogue with an Artist' at the Poetry Foundation.

Recent News

2020 Keats-Shelley Prizes Open for Entries

Deadline extended to 31st January

Read More

Keats-Shelley200 Bicentenary Campaign 2020-2022

A programme of events, talks, exhibitions, podcasts and fundraising to commemorate the deaths of John Keats and PB Shelley

Read More

Keats-Shelley House Closure 8th December 2019 - 24th February 2020

The museum closes for vital restoration to our daisy-covered ceiling

Read More

Keats-Shelley House Joins the RSPB’s Let Nature Sing Takeover

Read More

Giuseppe Albano receives MBE from Queen Elizabeth II

Read More

2020 Keats-Shelley Prize Theme: SongbirdTo mark bicentenaries of Shelley's To a Skylark and Keats' Ode to a Nightingale, and raise awareness of rising threat of extinction

Read More

Giuseppe Albano awarded the MBE Keats-Shelley House Curator honoured for his contribution to UK-Italian relations in Queen's Birthday Honours

Read More

2019 Keats-Shelley Prize WinnersProfessor Michael Rosen reveals the winning poets and essayists at 2019's Keats-Shelley Awards

Read More

The Best of Byron - A New Publication from Keats-Shelley House'She Walks in Beauty' - edited by Professor Duncan Wu, with a preface by Julian Sands. And a Special Offer for Keats-Shelley Friends.

Read More