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Poetic former deputy editor remembered in new book

The life of a former deputy editor at a regional daily who also turned his hand to poetry has been chronicled in a new book.

Barry MacSweeney was deputy editor at the Shields Gazette during his journalism career but was better known as a poet.

Barry worked as a journalist all his life in the North-East and elsewhere in the UK but died at the age of 51 in 2000 after a long battle with alcoholism.

The book, called Reading Barry MacSweeney, examines his poetry and his personal life and includes collections of his work.

The Gazette reports that leading academics and friends have contributed to it, including former colleague at the paper Terry Kelly.

It has been edited by Paul Batchelor, who wrote that: “A diverse range of writers – academics, poets, journalists and friends of MacSweeney – have been brought together to offer perspectives on this most protean, prolific and contradictory of poets.”

Barry’s first book was called The Boy From the Green Cabaret Tells of His Mother and was published by Hutchinson in 1968, selling thousands of copies.

As a 19-year-old, Barry was then put forward for the Oxford chair of poetry, a publicity stunt which backfired and he grew to dislike the literary establishment, with most of his subsequent books published by non-mainstream publishers.

His later work won a Paul Hamlyn Award and gained glowing reviews, while an archive dedicated to his writing was set up at Newcastle University in 2001.

The book is published by Bloodaxe Books and is available from Amazon.


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  • January 28, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I worked with Barry for a number of years. He could be difficult, infuriating and utterly unreasonable but in an odd way he was a joy to work with – passionate, intelligent and inspirational. We had a lot of fun. I look forward to this book.

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  • January 28, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Barry was news editor on the Folkestone Herald and South Kent Gazette when I worked there as a reporter, then sub, from 1977 to 1982. To say that he could be difficult, particularly after a few drinks, would be something of an understatement. He could also be inspirational and, as a talented all-rounder, a great team leader when he wanted to be. His career and personal life had suffered as a result of the alcohol intake but Barry’s tremendous talents as a writer, news gatherer and raconteur remained undimmed. He became a good, although never close, friend in the years before his death and I still treasure a signed copy of some of his early work. A larger-than-life character; gone but never to be forgotten.

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