on 16 October 2011
The Irish understand rootlessness and fractured identity, but for the most part this is verbally so dull I think Sweeney must have forgotten to take his children's hat off. How can you write a dull poem called The Scream or one on Kafka's Hunger Artist? Sweeney can. One of the more accessible poets now writing, his shtick is deadpan descriptive, often telling.
The magazine had a large circulation
Among the medical fraternity
He.. forced it to be his pet
Like Magnus Mills's prose this is draining yet addictive, the more angsty and fantastical the better, yet perilously close to poetry by numbers; the political ones, for instance, while quite effective, have a faintly dutiful air - war tourism, politics lite. There's a feeling, often, of filler; is the anomie just Poet with Emotion in search of Theme? As in earlier books, the relief of rhyme on p56 (of 68!!) is *very* welcome. Making it through to the Final Mix will be The Letter (but I like God poems) and the deliciously inscrutable Samarkand. Though listlessness finally conquers all, when he's on form Sweeney's anxious voice, like Auden's in the Thirties, speaks to the times.
We sat on in the car to make sure