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George Barker (George Granville Barker) Biography

(1913–91), (George Granville Barker), Thirty Preliminary Poems, Poems, Janus, Oxford Book of Modern Verse, Calamiterror

British poet, born in Loughton, Essex, educated at the Regent Street Polytechnic. From 1930 onward he lived mainly as a freelance writer and held visiting professorships at universities in America, Japan, and elsewhere. Following the appearance of Thirty Preliminary Poems in 1933, he gained considerable critical attention in 1935 with Poems and Janus, the latter consisting of two prose pieces entitled ‘The Documents of Death’ and ‘The Bacchants’. T. S. Eliot, Barker's publisher at Faber and Faber, arranged a modest income for him, and W. B. Yeats conferred on him the distinction of being the youngest contributor to his Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936). Throughout the 1930s his poetry maintained a high level of rhetorical and emotional energy, partaking of surrealism's imaginative licence while remaining fundamentally conventional in form. Calamiterror (1937) typifies his fondness for long sequences amalgamating numerous themes in its cumulative responses to the Spanish Civil War, visionary experiences, and socio-cultural conditions in general. With Dylan Thomas, he was the chief progenitor of the extravagant manner identified with the poets of the New Apocalypse. The essentially metaphysical character of his poetry became more consistently apparent during the 1940s in a succession of volumes which include Lament and Triumph (1940) and Sacred and Secular Elegies (1943). Faith and doubt remain dominant elements beneath the irreverent surfaces of The True Confession of George Barker (1950; revised and enlarged 1965), which reviews the habitual preoccupations of his writing, among them guilt, sexuality, and death. His later collections of verse, which include The Golden Chains (1968), Poems of Places and People (1971), and Anno Domino (1983), exhibit a mood of elegiac contemplation and are more conversationally relaxed in tone than hitherto. A Collected Poems, edited by Robert Fraser, was produced in 1987. Among his other writings is the complexly symbolic novel The Dead Seagull (1950).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Houston A. Baker (Houston Alfred to Sally Beauman Biography