Sunday, 6 September 2009

Simon Turner on Tom Chivers on Barry MacSweeney

I've just returned from London, after attending the Tears in the Fence 50th (issue) birthday (more on that later in the week), and thought I'd cap off the weekend by singing the praises - and plugging the iPlayer availability - of Tom Chivers' Radio 4 programme 'The Poet of Sparty Lea', which looked at the life and poetry of Barry MacSweeney. Basically, I thought it was great, focusing as it did chiefly on the poems, with recordings of MacSweeney himself interspersed with other readers, though if I had a criticism, it was probably a matter of length. Half an hour didn't feel like quite enough time, and the poetic context of MacSweeney's work was skated over in favour of the biographical. It could be simply that a discussion of where MacSweeney's work fits in relation to the British Poetry Revival, the Poetry Wars, the work of the Cambridge School, and other currents (both radical and conservative) in British post-war poetry, in conjunction with a consideration of his own technical innovations, would have made for too heavy listening on a Sunday afternoon. What matters most, of course, is that it encourages people to return to, or discover, MacSweeney's poetry, which is some of the most exciting produced in these isles in the last 50 years. Thankfully, Tom avoids such gushingly hyperbolic terminology in his own appraisal of MacSweeney, and the programme's all the better for it. Listen and enjoy. Oh, and if the BBC are reading and happen to be looking for someone to do a similar piece on Roy Fisher, my fees are five potato pies an hour, plus expenses.


Tom said...


Thanks for that. I'm really pleased you like the programme. We recorded hours of audio, so of course it's always disappointing that so much has to be cut out in the end. But I think the producer did a really good job - in particular to get in so much archive of Barry reading. Half an hour on Radio 4 is, I hope, a good opportunity to get people interested in Barry's work.



Jacqui Rowe said...

And indeed if they're looking for something on Apollinaire (fascinating life, enough for a feature film), I'd be prepared to do it on the same terms.