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This article is taken from PN Review 31, Volume 9 Number 5, May - June 1983.

Poetry and Contemporaray Inertia (1932) George Barker

(from The Twentieth Century, September 1932)

BY the phrase contemporary inertia I designate the condition which society today is lying in, the inability to originate a decisive movement into the future. What D. H. Lawrence called a purposive step. It is, I apprehend, foremost in the consciousness or intelligence of most people that we are today vacillating on the exhausted extremity of an era the body of which has gone: it must also intensely concern those people, not that we prolong the extremity, but that once for all we abandon it and proceed in full knowledge of what we are doing, on to the posterior division of complete condition.

We are not making transition between the past and the future, which is the only reason for the collective present. We seem to be nostalgic after pre-war comfortability, and scared of the severity through which the new conditions must come.

I shall, however, try to use in this essay such words as imply that what I am writing about is not simply a secular and temporal matter, but, at the same time, a matter which has a profound relation with parts of us less easily comprehensible.

The inertia, as far as I can analyse it, does not appear in any way to be economic, or political, but it might be very mildly religious: it is certainly nearer to the undecipherable quality which animates human beings rather than to the qualities which are ...


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