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Synopsis

The poems in A Smell of Fish connect and radiate like the spokes of a wheel: haiku, sestinas, poems beginning with a line by somebody else or sparked off by foreign travel, a version of Dante, a sea sequence set on the Suffolk coast, and - long overdue - Matthew Sweeney's own version of the old Irish poem where his namesake is turned into a bird.

In this, his seventh collection, we are back in a world where all explanations are withheld. 'If Beckett and Kafka come to mind', as Sean O'Brien wrote in his essay on Sweeney in The Deregulated Muse, 'they are not simply influences but kindred imaginations'. So we encounter a valley mysteriously filling with the smell of fish, second-world-war planes reappearing over London, a secret attic mural of a naked ex-lover, a cosmonaut abandoned on the moon, and a subterranean tunnel that runs the length of Ireland.

Whatever the subject, we are in the confident hands of one of the most imaginatively gifted poets now writing.

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