Prolific poet whose darkly humorous fables expressed the strangeness of the world with a sense of delight

Matthew Sweeney, who has died of motor neurone disease aged 66, was one of the most adventurous, life-enhancing and distinctive poets of his gifted generation. Early on, he developed an unusual poetic approach, less concerned with traditional form than poetic fable. His stories – “imagistic narratives” as he called them in an interview – unfold like miniature films, crammed with colloquialisms. Full of often self-fulfilling anxieties, they lure the reader in with a seeming naivety, only to spring sophisticated or heart-rending surprises.

This approach allowed Matthew to access the darker areas of his imagination and to express freely what he felt was the essential loneliness of the human condition. In Cacti, the title poem of his 1992 collection, the speaker, devastated by the loss of his wife, slowly turns his flat into a desert in which the last memento he has of her, a cactus bought in Marrakesh, can flourish.

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