PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
OUP PNR 246 Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Alex Wong embarks on Ausonius's Moselle Christine Blackwell recalls Jonas Mekas Lives of Graves, Trilling and Curnow visited New poems by Lisa Kelly and Jodie Hollander Andy Croft on the 'poetry industry'

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