In Matthew Sweeney's freshly selected volume, The Night Post we get the sense from the opening pages of an edgier habit of speech: sharply knowing, well informed, brimming with opinions. "I have seen through all. / I am excess": Sweeney's early work, especially, is marked by a kind of inspired overkill, the speedtalk of a monologist made verbally and imaginatively uneasy by the world…. With its landscapes of desolate isolations, his is often an evocatively noirish world of contemporary angst (the spooky title poem places a loaded Mercedes hearse — containing a body or "dozens of Armalites" — at a roadblock in the North). The persona of the poems is a troubled, self-aware consciousness taking in but never quite making sense of a contemporary world of fragments, a consciousness stretched and strained, but untouched by self-indulgence, self-pity or self-regard. (Eamon Grennan The Irish Times
We're lucky to have this book. It opens with a striking sequence from the 70s, "The Moonpoems", full of urban paranoia and gothic meanderings held in check by a sense of musicality and dark humour. Gradually, as the selection progresses through the 80s and 90s, Sweeney's style takes on a greater clarity and restraint. There are brooding vignettes of domestic life shimmering in the half-light, caught between the need for safety and a sense of claustrophobia. There are haunting parables, such as "The Stone Ship" or "The Queue", and children's poems such as "Night Boy" or "Johnjoe's Snowman" that simmer with disquiet.
"Wild Garlic" is a triumph of an elegy. But the best writing is to be found in pieces such as "The Haunt of the Night-Owl" and its companion "Omelettes", both of which confront poverty and loss. Or take the wonderfully achieved simplicity of "The Hill", whose effortless, conversational tone explores the book's tensions with fine understatement – "but it's quiet now / in every room, and I go upstairs / to stare out at the sea instead, past / a flurry of starlings, heading somewhere." (Charles Bainbridge The Guardian
Ambitious and troubling, linking Ireland to the Black Sea and madness to history, grim as death and very funny, Black Moon insists that the worst is yet to come, which may in turn bring out the best in Sweeney. (Sean O’Brien )
If one had to draw the co-ordinates for Matthew Sweeney they might intersect about the point where Flann O’Brien met Marin Sorescu, though without the latter’s more intimate knowledge of bloodiness and tyranny. And there might be the ghost of a flute or pennywhistle there too, because it is impossible to read his poetry without hearing its apparently simple but sophisticated cadences as music. (George Szirtes )