Saturday, 11 January 2014

Reading Barry MacSweeney - review by Terry Kelly

Poet’s life is brought to book

Terry Kelly
Shields Gazette
03 January 2014

A BOOK about the life and work of a former Shields Gazette journalist is out now.

Barry MacSweeney, once deputy editor at the Gazette, died at the age of 51 in 2000 after a long battle with alcoholism.

Despite working as a journalist all his life in the North East and elsewhere in the UK, MacSweeney is better known as a poet.

Reading Barry MacSweeney, published by Northumberland-based Bloodaxe Books, examines the work of the Newcastle-born poet, including collections such as The Book of Demons and Pearl.

His first book, The Boy From the Green Cabaret Tells of His Mother, published by Hutchinson in 1968, sold thousands of copies, but as a 19-year-old, MacSweeney was put forward for the Oxford chair of poetry, a publicity stunt which backfired.

MacSweeney afterwards developed a distaste for the literary establishment, and most of his subsequent books were published by non-mainstream presses.

But his later poetry won a Paul Hamlyn Award and glowing reviews in leading UK journals, and an archive dedicated to his writing was created at Newcastle University in 2001.

Leading academics and friends contribute to Reading Barry MacSweeney, which looks at different aspects of his poetry, plus his personal life and love of rock music.

Editor Paul Batchelor writes: “A diverse range of writers – academics, poets, journalists and friends of MacSweeney – have been brought together to offer perspectives on this most protean, prolific and contradictory of poets.”

Contributors include his former Gazette colleague Terry Kelly.

Reading Barry MacSweeney is published by Bloodaxe Books, priced at £12.

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