George Barker

from Pacific Sonnets (1944)


And in these islands hung in the fringe of Asia,
The herbaceous border of the Siberian waste,
Where I move giddily in disgust or aphasia
Straddling the huts of paper and paste,
Here in this vacuum where goldfish float
Between transparent planes of mental negation
But look like thoughts, here on this glass
I see reflected the mechanism of fate
Evolving the instruments of destruction
For all that I have left, the Europe that was,
Whose historical frieze, in its seizure,
Shrieks with the voice of Sibelius, crying
Like a violin in the middle of the sea,
‘I am dying!’

In 1939 George Barker (1913-1991) was visiting professor at the second department of English literature in Japan, founded by Doi Kôchi, at the Imperial University at Sendai, now Tohoku University, following the departure of Ralph Hodgsen and preceding by twenty and fifty years respectively the arrivals at Sendai of James Kirkup and Peter Robinson. Among many other works Barker was author of Alanna Autumnal (London: Wishart, 1933), Thirty Preliminary Poems (London: Parton, 1933), Janus (London, Faber & Faber, 1935), Poems (Faber, 1935), Calamiterror (Faber, 1937), Lament and Triumph (Faber, 1940), Selected Poems (Macmillan, 1940), Sacred and Secular Elegies (New Directions, 1943), Eros in Dogma (Faber, 1944), The Dead Seagull (Lehmann, 1950), The True Confessions of George Barker (Swallow, 1950), News of the World (Faber, 1950), Vision of Beasts and Gods (Faber, 1950), and Collected Poems, 1930-1955 (Faber, 1957). ‘Pacific Sonnets’ appeared in Eros in Dogma.

Among Barker titles in print in the UK are Selected Poems and Collected Poems, both edited by Robert Fraser (available here and here), Essays (here), The Dead Seagull (here), Vision of Beasts and Gods (here), and Street Ballads (here). Barkers work is not in print in the United States.

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