PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: to access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
PN Review Prize winners announced
Carcanet Press and PN Review are delighted to announce the winners of the first ever PN Review Prize. read more
Most Read... Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Kate BinghamPuddle
(PN Review 236)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue CELEBRATING JOHN ASHBERY Contributors include Mark Ford, Marina Warner, Jeremy Over, Theophilus Kwek, Sam Riviere, Luke Kennard, Philip Terry,Agnes Lehoczky, Emily Critchley, Oli Hazard and others Miles Champion The Gold Standard Rebecca Watts The Cult of the Noble Amateur Marina Tsvetaeva ‘My desire has the features of a woman’: Two Letters translated by Christopher Whyte Iain Bamforth Black and White

This review is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

HEROIC FAILURE BARRY MACSWEENEY, Wolf Tongue: Selected Poems 1965-2000 (Bloodaxe) £12


Barry MacSweeney embraced from the outset of his career a romantic notion of heroic failure. It is no coincidence that the celebrator of Chatterton - antique spellings as of 'starre' and 'moone' persist throughout his work as does the use of 'argent' for 'silver' - should himself be the boy-poet who all but disappeared from public view. His first volume of verse was published by Hutchinson when he was nineteen. After a foolish publicity stunt by his publishers, that of proposing him for the Processor of Poetry at Oxford, he appeared only in small-press publications for the next twenty-five years. The Book of Deynons appeared from Bloodaxe in 1997, and won him a Poetry Book Society recommendation. This new Selected Poems appears posthumously. His death in 2002 was from alcohol-related causes. (He claimed to have been an alcoholic since the age of sixteen - a claim some feel to be exaggerated).

Early on he came under the wing of J. H. Prynne who is the dedicatee of a number of these poems. There is, however, little of the intellectually-controlled hermeticism of Prynne in his work: rather, for much of the time he reads like a Newcastle version of Ginsberg with his rhetorical overload and his Blakeinspired visions of Albion. Above all there is a sense of a poet fuelled by anger. Some of this is politically motivated - there is a good deal of fantasising about killing Tories - but it is hard not to feel ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image