Irish poet Matthew Sweeney has died aged 65.
The writer from Cork had suffered from motor neurone disease, with his latest collection My Life As A Painter published by Bloodaxe Books four months ago. He died on Sunday (5th August).
Described as a “prolific writer” by the Irish Times, Sweeney had published a number of collections including The Night Post: A Selection (Salt, 2010) and Black Moon (Jonathan Cape, 2007), which was shortlisted for both the TS Eliot Prize and for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. He also co-wrote a satirical thriller, Death Comes for the Poets (Muswell Press), based the world of contemporary poetry, along with English poet John Hartley Williams, which was published in 2012.
Poet Theo Dorgan told the Irish Times that he was “one of the finest poets of his generation, a craftsman of the highest achievement, with a distinct music all his own”.
Sweeney was born in Lifford, Ireland, according to the Poetry Foundation’s online tribute. He studied German and English at the Polytechnic of North London and the University of Freiburg in Germany. The Foundation described how “his poetry, which is often fable-like and humorous, shows the influence of Irish- and German-language literary traditions and writers, including Franz Kafka”.
A number of writers posted their tributes on Twitter. Poet and critic Jack Underwood described Sweeney as “wonderful…. A mischief, a temper, and a grin like a rusted zip,” in a tribute. “He was such fun to be around,” Underwood said.
Meanwhile Irish poet Patrick Cotter revealed how his friend has “put up a spirited fight against the reaper in the past week and wrote up a storm in these last months of life”.
Originally from Donegal, Sweeney said he would not allow his diagnosis to 'stunt his creativity' in an Irish Examiner interview in April. "Like most people, I prefer not to dwell on my inevitable demise. Where the poems take me is another matter," he said.
A recipient of the Cholmondeley Award and the Arts Council England Writers’ Award, Sweeney held residencies at the University of East Anglia and South Bank Centre in London. He taught workshops and classes in the community and served as poet-in-residence at the National Library for the Blind (UK). The poet was also a member of Aosdána, an Irish association which honours outstanding contributions to the creative arts.
He is survived by his children and his partner Mary Noonan.