The radio programme on Barry MacSweeney was broadcast to an audience that probably new little about the type of poetry he represented, or about MacSweeney himself, and it had thirty minutes to position the poet and his work. Ian Sinclair, Jackie Litherland and Chivers himself did convey some important aspects of the poetry, namely its foregrounding of the oral - of sound patterning and repeated motifs - and MacSweeney's ability to create his own myths and maintain them within a poem or sequence of poems.
But, inevitably, the programme presented MacSweeney as the stereotypical Romantic doomed poet, born to live fast and die young (or at least middle-aged). Did we really need the gruesome detail of the effects of alcohol on his body? Probably not, though at least it was followed by him reading one of the Demon Poems for which it provided a context. You could argue that MacSweeney's poetry, like Ginsberg's, can't really be separated from his biography. Is that a fault in a body of poetic work? Discuss. But an inordinate number of those thirty minutes were spent discussing his alcohol habit, and all of the recordings of MacSweeney talking were of him talking about drinking.
The programme assumed that readers weren't interested in, or capable of absorbing, a simple outline of his poetic development, and the influences on it. There was little contextualizing in terms of poetic contemporaries or religious and political influences (like seventeenth century radical movements for example, or MacSweeney's late conversion to Christianity); no mention of Ranter, and its reference to the 17th century Ranters, and no mention of Pearl, and its reference to the medieval poem of that name. No mention of Thomas Chatterton, and the influence of that literary myth on MacSweeney. The best thing in the programme were the clips of MacSweeney reading his work; he was a very good reader. Unintentional humour was provided by the quote from a Sean O'Brien poem which likened MacSweeney's reading style to 'a bucket of lava flung over the listener'.