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This review is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

I ALSO BEG George Barker, Dialogues etc., Faber, £1.95.

George Barker no longer hangs out apocalyptic signboards like Calamiterror, or ambiguously worded invitations such as News of the World and A View from a Blind I. These days he contents himself with take-it-or-leave-it cards stuck in the shopwindow-e.g. Essays for one of the few collections of literary criticism of unfactitious value that have come out in the last couple of decades. And Dialogues etc. is what it says it is-dialogues, etc.

The etceteras are better than the dialogues, of which there are eight: ballad-metre backchats between a pair of disillusioned entities called Gog and Magog:

Gog: Where were you when the angel called
           banging at the door?

Magog: I was too fast asleep to know
            what he was banging for.

          Where were you when they blew my brains
           like eggs out on the bed?
Gog: I was standing with a little gun
          pointed at your head.

The tone is sinister when not savage, as if Barker had not enough hope left to be sad. He'll still crack a joke when he can, and preferably when he can't. But every now and then the verse takes off, not on the viewless wings of poesy but the propellers of plain English:

There is no river running
  into a future tense,
and long though you look down, it
  bears no image hence


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