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

Bringing God down to Earth Sebastian Barker

MY impression on re-reading the collected works of George Barker is one of prodigious energy. He has been publishing with no serious gaps for fifty years. The bibliographical careers of most of his most distinguished contemporaries show a patchier story. David Gascoyne and W. H. Graham have both returned from considerable periods of silence in recent years and the story of Dylan Thomas flashes in the literary boneyard of the public auction house with brilliance but little overall design.

George Barker's output may be catalogued under ten main obsessions, only the first three of which I shall touch on here: Love or God, Faith, Women, Money, The Trade of Poet, Self-image, the Stars, Time, Imagery, and Symbolism. The most interesting thing about this list is what is missing from it: people. And though, as in the mainstream of modern poetry-Eliot, Pound, Auden, Larkin-human beings occasionally make their entrances, it is far more normal to see an attitude to a person rather than a person. A woman, for example, may be seen as a woman, rather than as a person. People are depersonalised or or caricatured, as for example Larkin's 'Jan van Hogspouw' in 'The Card-Players'. The immediate upshot of George Barker's main interests, which are very much in the mainstream, is that they are all abstractions. In general terms, this point is considerably more glaring than the almost total oversight about things scientific. But this, too, can be understood. In fact, in George Barker's latest work science ...


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