The Poet of Sparty Lea: In Search of Barry MacSweeney

I’ve been busy lately working on a documentary for Radio 4 about the poet Barry MacSweeney (pictured here far-left, in 1970). The programme is broadcast at 4.30pm on Sunday 6th September.

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13 Comments

  1. Hi Tom

    I’ve seen that photo before and have wondered what was going through the heads of the four poets there, especially Bunting and Harrison. Compared to Montgomery and McSweeney who both took a great deal from Bunting, Harrison of course went a very different way later in terms of form, and dissed Bunting for putting on a fake Newcastle reading when he read. Harrison’s early poems often focussed around sexuality, which is one strand going through Bunting’s work too. They probably had Latin poetry to talk about too. Looking forward to hearing your McSweeney documentary.

    Alistair

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  2. Can’t wait to catch your documentary. We need more specific petry programs such as this one on TV and radio. The recent BBC Poetry Season was very popular with some excellent stuff coming out. Would give anything to have eared into the conversation these poets must have had over their drinks.

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  3. caught the tail end of the macsweeney broadcast and am now chasing through all the anthologies I possess, looking for his work & intending to get library copies in asap. many thanks for alerting me to this fine and brave poet.

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  4. I listened to the radio 4 programme by chance as I was washing up sunday lunch and was drawn into the story of this man and his poetry. Amazing riveting and very well produced . Thanks
    I run an internet poetry group on Premiercommunity and had just started a thread on biographies of what I call “less well known poets” . Barry Macsweeny is now included in that with a link to the programme

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  5. I first encountered Barry’s poems in 1970 when i was a very serious 16 year old studying my A levels. I wrote poetry myself and still do and identified with Barry. Here seemed to be someone like me a working class romantic. I carried a copy of his poems around in my pocket for weeks and raved about them and lent it to my friend’s boyfriend who lost it, it was a library book.
    i ordered another copy from local bookshop who were unable to get one for me. i remembered for ages Barry’s haunting words and evocative vocabulary.
    Now a women of 55, an artist, Ou student and grandmother I sat in my dressing gown and listened to your excellent programme about Barry this morning whilst having my breakfast. Thank you for reintroducing such an excellent poet into my life. I will now order some of his books and immerse myself in their delights. I enjoyed the programme immensely and just wanted to tell you. Thank you so much. Julia

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    1. 16 year old in 1970? Poetry books in pocket? Serious working class romantic? Poet? Can it be Julia Nash – as was? I still have a poem of yours written for me in 1970. Love to hear from you. Chris Kounoudis.

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  6. I only caught the end of the programme yesterday and hoped to hear it the whole thing on the iplayer but sadly its not available.

    What was the name of the final poem in the programme please?

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  7. Hi Kathleen, that poem is ‘Pearl at 4am’ – from The Book of Demons and reprinted in Barry’s collected poems Wolf Tongue (both available from Bloodaxe Books). Cheers, Tom

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  8. Barry and his then girlfriend, Vivienne, lived with us in a flat in Finchley in 1969 where he wrote The Last Bud. I still have amazing memories of that time and a treasured copy of the book.

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