Matthew Sweeney

Matthew Sweeney

type of work biography
publications press
website links residencies
awards & honours teaching
sample of work  

  • Gives readings throughout Britain, Europe and elsewhere, at festivals or one-off events. 
  • Runs workshops for adults and children. Frequent tutor of Arvon Courses. Writer in Residence at Arts Centres (South Bank Centre), Universities (UEA; Reading), Poetry Festivals (Aldeburgh; Ledbury, Stanza) and other organisations. Regular visitor of schools, both primary and secondary, including International Schools around Europe.
  • Experienced in cross-arts projects, in the South Bank Centre, Barbican Centre, Tate Gallery and elsewhere, working with composers, visual artists, filmmakers, animators, jazz and rock musicians.
  • Judge of Poetry Competitions on many occasions, including the National Poetry Competition and the Cardiff Open, but also many smaller competitions.
  • Book reviews for the Observer, Times Educational Supplement and Poetry London.
  • Frequent involvement in radio programmes for BBC and other organisations. Occasional television and video work.
  • Currently trying to finish a long-delayed book of stories, and well into a new collection of poems (many of which have been appearing in periodicals). There is also another children's novel that is awaiting publication, and  a half-written joint novel, with John Hartley Williams - a satirical thriller, set in the world of contemporary poetry.


Sanctuary (Cape, 2004)

Selected Poems (Cape, 2002); a variant of this published in Canada, in 2002, under the title A Picnic on Ice by Signal Editions, Vehicule Press.

Up on the Roof: New and Selected Poems (Faber, 2001)

A Smell of Fish (Cape, 2000)

The Bridal Suite (Cape, 1997)

Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times
(Faber, 1996); co-editor (with Jo Shapcott).

More publication details here...


"Twenty five years' work finds Sweeney at fifty with a rich trove of memorable, funny, alarming poems whose very readability at times disguises their complexity. Here is a poet who has never allowed himself to be distracted - a poet, too, whose work all those of us who think we know it well had better read afresh."
Sean O'Brien, reviewing Sweeney's Selected Poems, Poetry London

'Funny, surreal, tender, fantastic, earthy... '  (Helen Dunmore)

"He is the true master of secret narratives... one of the best poets around."
John Lucas

"He is probably the best example of modern pan-Europeanism in poetry.... Poets will unmistakably see its freshness, its diversity and its originality. And it is exactly this fact that makes Sanctuary a must-read."
Nicolas Cobic, The Wolf

"Sweeney keeps returning to the thought of how much we have to negate in our effort to be ourselves, to stay alive... Sweeney's imagination is fascinated by all the ways we say no to experience, and how those denials build an enigmatic and above all deeply personal architecture around us."
Clair Wills, The Irish Times

"Here is the fabulist's art, simplicity of statement, a close logic in the sequence of actions, an economy of images and characters. The effect is utterly cogent, yet it defamiliarises what we know. Perception and logic are both exact, but re-aligned at a slight variance from each other. We have seen this defamiliarising purpose in Kafka, and in the work of Vasko Popa, Miroslav Holub and others, but Sweeney makes of the method his own world."
Alan Gould , Quadrant


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