PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
PNR266 Now Available
The latest issue of PN Review is now available to read online. read more
Most Read... Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing ‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing
(PN Review 236)
Next Issue Stav Poleg Running Between Languages Jeffrey Meyers on Mr W.H. (Auden) Miles Burrows The Critic as Cleaning Lady Timothy Ades translates Brecht, Karen Leeder translates Ulrike Almut Sandig
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

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

An Appreciation Michael Cullup

POEM XXXIV from In Memory of David Archer (1973) gives a clue to what George Barker is at:


I do not aspire to write the truth about
what I think, because I would not know
when I had written it, whether what I had written
in fact was the truth, or not.


It reminds me of Robert Frost's words: a poem 'is never a thought to begin with. It finds its thought.'

This correspondence in stance helps me to define my own poetic predilections. It is those poets who 'find their thought' that attract me, rather than those who impose on the poems they write. To quote Frost again: 'Scholars get their knowledge with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books.'

The result, as far as George Barker's poems are concerned, is that we are given, from time to time, knowledge that is priceless because we couldn't have got it anywhere else. This is not just knowledge of George Barker but knowledge of ourselves and the world we live in:


The Pyrrhic victories of the rational
    surround us on all sides with
scenes of violence, carnage and
    barbaric triumphal arches . . .
(Anno Domini, 1981)


The godfathered negative
that responds to our mistaken
incredulous and heartbroken
desire ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image