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

A Miss is as good as... Hugh Maxton

Congratulations to George Barker on his seventieth birthday

A poet who reaches the Biblical span without being absorbed, taken-over, or simply bought is earnestly to be congratulated, admired, and envied. George Barker is such an independent figure in whose work eloquence and silence alike have been rich in integrity, passion, and truth. The True Confession of George Barker is the title of his work in its entirety.

In 1966 when 'Goodman Jacksin and the Angel' was published by Penguin Books in David Wright's Longer Contemporary Poems I was working in a Dublin bookshop which wrongly believed itself to be the standard-bearer of culture in the city. The poetry section was in the basement, between the toilets and the order-department, sharing space with the children's books and yachting. Its shelves changed more slowly than the seasons, but one item which required regular replacement over the months was Barker's Collected Poems. To the left Auden bulked large, and further down the alphabet irregular-sized Pounds sullenly endured their captivity. Successive allegedly complete editions of Graves accumulated in a veritable necropolis. Upstairs there was a prestigious Irish section-between tourism and the antiquarian department. It had its poetry shelves also, and in addition to the austere bindings of Yeats there was an opportunist crowd of Day Lewises, Durrells and others, all declaring themselves advantageously Irish and willing to be bought, binding and soul. The Brontes at times lodged there: Che Guevara Lynch was expected daily.

I confess that, ...

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