By Olivia Kelleher
Aosdána poet Matthew Sweeney had a gift for friendship and his mischievous smile and warm bear hugs led him to be much treasured by family, friends and his peers a ceremony celebrating his life at the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork city has heard.
Mr Sweeney (66), who died on August 5th at Cork University Hospital, was described by his daughter Nico as a person with a "remarkable mind and buckets of imagination."
She said her father was a "true artist."
Her childhood in Dombey Street in London with her parents Matthew and Rosemary and brother Malvin was "colourful, vibrant and exciting."
She said they shared their home with a wide range of colourful friends who dropped by for her father's legendary cooking and his gift of entertaining.
She said he deserved a Michelin star for his cooking.
"Our childhood was enriched with delicious meals and a delightful soundtrack.
Her young daughter Nell read out a poem written specially written for her by her grandfather when she was born.
Mr Sweeney also wrote a second poem for his grand child Jude which was also featured in the ceremony.
In the poem titled "Hey Jude" he said that if his grandchild was to think of him at all he should imagine a brown bear in an office looking for a way out.
But Jude was told not to worry as the bear would have his his own jar of honey and would be resplendent in a pair of blue sunglasses and a pork pie hat.
We remember Matthew Sweeney as a generous teacher and a true believer in poetry. Here is his craft talk at the Cork International Poetry Festival; as insightful, funny, and heartfelt as you would expect. https://t.co/bOTxuTF2ZV— Munster Literature Centre (@MunLitCentre) August 6, 2018
Mr Sweeney's son Malvin joked that one of the great joys of his father was that they shared maturity levels when he was young.
He regaled family and friends with a story of how his father livened up dull dinner parties by devising a shooter to fire corks from bottles back and forth with his kids.
It was similar to a game of conkers only with corks from wine bottles.
"The winning shot was the one between the eyes Eastwood style."
He said he once got in trouble for coming in to school as a teenager having failed to shave.
The school contacted his father Matthew who said that if a beard was good enough for Jesus it would work for young Malvin Sweeney.
Meanwhile, Mary Noonan, who was the partner of the late Matthew Sweeney, said he was a man who lived "lightly over the earth."
She said Matthew was a "magnetic forcefield" who drew poets together. She told mourners that the Donegal native had given himself fully to his art.
Friends and fellow poets including amongst others Jo Shapcott, Thomas McCarthy, Gerry Murphy, Maurice Riordan and Padraig Rooney recited poems by Mr Sweeney and shared memories of him during the ceremony.
Light hearted tales were told of how poetry editors could now "sleep easy in their beds" with his passing.
Mr Sweeney was known for writing trenchant and spirited replies when his work wasn't to the taste of certain individuals.
Friends and relatives at the ceremony were joined by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn.
The President's aide de camp Colonel Liam Condon was also in attendance.
“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Matthew Sweeney, a distinguished poet who made a significant contribution to contemporary Irish poetry and who will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.”— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) August 6, 2018
Mr Sweeney had published numerous collections of poetry during his lifetime and had been shortlisted for and had received a number of poetry awards.
He had launched his most recent collection of poetry, My Life as a Painter, in April.
During his life he lived in London, Berlin, Timisoara in Romania and in Cork.
He was a writer in residence in a number of universities including UCC and taught extensively.
We were lucky enough to have Matthew Sweeney as our @artscouncil_ie Writer in Residence during 2012-13. Our sincere sympathies to Dr Mary Noonan and to all of Matthew’s family. https://t.co/0shteowFo8— English UCC (@EnglishUCC) August 5, 2018
He particularly enjoying mentoring new poets.
Matthew Sweeney was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year. He wrote a poem just three days before he died.
His burial will take place tomorrow at 2pm in Clonmany New Cemetery, Co Donegal.