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This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

IRISH DOMESTIC TROPHIES Matthew Sweeney, A Round House (Raven Arts/Allison & Busby) £3.50

Matthew Sweeney's first collection of poems, A Dream of Maps, appeared in 1981 from Raven Arts in Dublin, who have joined forces with A & B to produce A Round House. The earlier collection presented an urban world haunted by the Bomb, where 'the clocks are all set/to stop in unison'; this theme is picked up in A Round House in the poems 'Preparations for Survival' and 'A Fable' (the fable being) a party to see the year 2000 in). Their vague sense of oppression becomes more specific in poems that deal, in a surprisingly unattached, unhysterical way, with the worst aspects of authoritarianism - telephone tapping, 'lost' mail, disappearances under South American regimes; Sweeney makes a point that is guarded in black comedy, but still manages to chill, as in 'The Vigil Boxes' where a baby alarm subtly changes into a bugging device - 'but where, we asked, did the relay end?'

Although often composed of images of isolation, many set in the rural landscape of Sweeney's own Ireland, these poems are clearly concerned with comedy as a means of detaching the way things are from the way we see them. 'All things exist as they are perceived,' claimed Shelley, 'at least in relation to the percipient' - language changes the world, or appears to; it can also offer alternative models, reconstructions and fantasies that attempt to decipher the original. What Sweeney constructs is a kind of camera obscura to produce a comic version, a world ...

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