Matthew Sweeney’s Shadow of the Owl reviewed by Mike Farren
Shadow of the Owl by Matthew Sweeney.£10.99. Bloodaxe. ISBN: 978 1 78037 542-7
If we envisage a poet writing under the shadow of death, we are most likely to consider either the youth – Keats coughing blood; Owen in the trenches – or one who has passed three score and ten: there’s the recent example of Clive James’ public leave-taking.
Matthew Sweeney, who died aged 65 in 2018, doesn’t quite fit either of those templates, just as his writing did not neatly fit an established Irish or British template. This posthumously-published volume begins under the threat of an undiagnosed, though clearly serious illness, which became an imminent death sentence when identified as motor neurone disease.
This section, ‘The Owl’, presents an extended analogy between the lowering, unseen presence of an owl and the wait for a diagnosis in…
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