George Barker (poet)

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George Barker
George.Barker.by.Patrick.Swift.London.jpg
George Barker, by Patrick Swift, c. 1960
Born (1913-02-26)26 February 1913
Loughton, Essex
Died 27 October 1991(1991-10-27) (aged 78)
Itteringham, Norfolk
Occupation Poet
Nationality English

George Granville Barker (26 February 1913 – 27 October 1991) was an English poet and author.

While sometimes associated with the mid-century New Apocalypse,[1] Barker's characteristically independent idiosyncrasies set him off as an individual in his own right.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Barker was born in Loughton, near Epping Forest in Essex, England, elder brother of the painter Kit Barker. He was raised by his Irish mother and English father in Battersea, London. He was educated at an L.C.C. school and at Regent Street Polytechnic. Having left school at an early age he pursued several odd jobs before settling on a career in writing. Early volumes of note by Barker include Thirty Preliminary Poems (1933), Poems (1935) and Calamiterror (1937), which was inspired by the Spanish Civil War.[3]

In his early twenties, Barker had already been published by T. S. Eliot at Faber and Faber, who also helped him to gain appointment as Professor of English Literature in 1939 at Tohoku University (Sendai, Miyagi, Japan). He left there in 1940 due to the hostilities, but wrote Pacific Sonnets during his tenure.

He then travelled to the United States where he began his longtime liaison with writer Elizabeth Smart, by whom he had four of his fifteen children. Barker also had three children by his first wife, Jessica.[4] He returned to England in 1943. From the late 1960s until his death, he lived in Itteringham, Norfolk, with his wife Elspeth Barker, the novelist. In 1969, he published the poem At Thurgarton Church, the village of Thurgarton being a few miles from Itteringham.

Barker's 1950 novel, The Dead Seagull, described his affair with Smart, whose 1945 novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept was also about the affair.[5] His Collected Poems (ISBN 0-571-13972-8) were edited by Robert Fraser and published in 1987 by Faber and Faber.

A notoriously uneven writer, Barker's masterpiece was considered by C. H. Sisson to be The True Confession of George Barker.[6]

In describing the difficulties in writing his biography, Barker was quoted as saying, "I've stirred the facts around too much ... It simply can't be done." Yet, Robert Fraser did just that with The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker.[7]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Selected Poems, edited by Robert Fraser, Faber and Faber (1995)
  • The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker, Robert Fraser, Jonathan Cape Ltd (2002)
  • Poems by George Barker, selected by Elspeth Barker, Greville Press (2004)
  • Selected Poems, New York : Macmillan Co (1941)
  • Homage to George Barker on his sixtieth birthday, edited by John Heath-Stubbs and Martin Green, Martin Brian & O'Keeffe (1973)
  • Dibby Dubby Dhu and other poems, illustrated by Sara Fanelli, Faber (1997)
  • Poems of places and people, Faber and Faber (1971)
  • Collected Poems, 1930-1955. Faber & Faber (1957)
  • Thirty Preliminary Poems, David Archer (1933)
  • Street ballads, Faber & Faber (1992)
  • The alphabetical zoo, Illustrated by Krystyna Roland, Faber and Faber (1972)
  • A vision of beasts and gods, Faber (1954)
  • The view from a blind I, Faber (1962)
  • Eros in Dogma, Faber & Faber (1944)
  • The True Confession of George Barker, MacGibbon & Kee (1965)
  • Calamiterror, Faber & Faber (1937)
  • Janus(The Documents of a Death.-The Bacchant.) [Two tales.], Faber & Faber (1935)
  • At Thurgarton Church, A poem with drawings, etc., London : Trigram Press (1969).
  • The Dead Seagull, Farrar, Straus & Young New York (1951)
  • Love Poems, New York : Dial Press (1947)
  • Dreams of a summer night, Faber & Faber (1966)
  • News of the world, Faber (1950)
  • III hallucination poems, New York City : Helikon Press (1972)
  • Alanna Autumnal, London : Wishart (1933)
  • Two plays, Faber (1958)
  • Poems, Faber & Faber (1935)
  • Elegy on Spain, Manchester : Contemporary Bookshop (1939)
  • The golden chains, Faber (1968)
  • To Aylsham Fair, Faber (1970)
  • Essays, MacGibbon & Kee (1970)
  • Dialogues etc., Faber (1976)
  • Seven poems, Greville Press (1977)
  • Lament and Triumph, Faber & Faber (1940)


References[edit]

  1. ^ I Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1995) p. 38
  2. ^ C. H. Sisson, English Poetry 1900-1950 (1981) p. 243
  3. ^ D. Daiches ed., The Penguin Companion to Literature Vol 1 (1971) p. 34
  4. ^ Sansom, Ian (March 2, 2002). "Master of the red Martini". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-08. "Jessica has just given birth to his twins, Elizabeth Smart is busy giving birth to her second child by him, and he is spending most of his time drinking in London." 
  5. ^ I Ousby ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1995) p. 38
  6. ^ C. H. Sisson, English Poetry 1900-1950 (1981) p. 248
  7. ^ The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker (Jonathan Cape Ltd, 2002, ISBN 978-0-7123-0540-2).

Further reading[edit]

  • Daniel Farson, Soho in the Fifties (Michael Joseph, London, 1987).
  • An Anthology from X (Oxford University Press, 1988)
  • Patrick Swift 1927-83 (Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 1993).
  • Selected Poems, HOMAGE TO GEORGE BARKER (On his Sixtieth Birthday). John Heath-Stubbs & Martin Green, eds, 1973. Includes portrait of Barker by Swift seen here.
  • The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker, Jonathan Cape Ltd (21 Feb 2002), ISBN 978-0-224-06242-8
  • The Spoken Word: George Barker [Audiobook], ISBN 978-0-7123-0540-2

External links[edit]