Sebastian Barker

Image by Caroline Forbes

Sebastian Barker

b. 1945 d. 2014

Look for the opening of your spirit into the real world. This is the world in which your words ring true - Sebastian Barker

Rosaceous Wonders

Sebastian Barker


The Articles of Prayer

Sebastian Barker


The Uncut Stone

Sebastian Barker


Holy The Heart On Which We Hang Our Hope

Sebastian Barker


Tell of the Sad Derangement of the Mind

Sebastian Barker

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About Sebastian Barker

Sebastian Barker (1945–2014) was the author of many books of poetry and editor of The London Magazine. An ex-chairman of the Poetry Society, he was a director of several literary festivals, including the Royal Berkshire Poetry Festival, and held various writer-in-residence positions; he was the recipient of awards from the Arts Council, the Society of Authors and the Royal Literary Fund. The Dream of Intelligence was named as a Book of the Year in both The Independent and The Spectator, and his book, The Erotics of God, was The Tablet's Book of the Year in 2005. His career included stints as a furniture restorer, carpenter, fireman and cataloguer at Sotheby's, and is perhaps best summed up by his autobiographical poem 'Curriculum Vitae'.

Barker is a companiable poet, as shown by poems such as 'For Eddie Linden On His 70th Birthday'; other poems carry dedications to family and friends (including Harold Pinter), and many are written to address a person directly. Through these, we are made privy to relationships which range from friendship to parental, romantic or erotic love. This does not exclude a wider world; while 'Tell of the Sad Derangement of the Heart' presents sociable, human moments where 'Friends are dropping by' and 'The fondest lovers yawn', it encloses those moments with others where humans become deranged creatures, then links these, using rhyme, with sorrows that deranged nations may cause each other. Beyond this, in a poem such as 'Holy the Heart on which We Hang Our Hope', Barker examines the way a mortal may interact with the divine, in which the obsessive attention demanded by the subject is mirrored in the use of a form developed from the repetitions of a villanelle.

This recording shows that Barker was firmly committed to the virtues of rhyme - almost every poem here makes use of it, some in the form of hypnotic refrains and tight forms, as in 'The Uncut Stone', with others ranging from jaunty occasional verse to psalm-like seriousness. Barker's powerful reading voice has a refreshing refusal to restrain the emotion behind the poems; he recalls his student experience, in Acumen, of hearing his headmaster reading the Song of Songs in Canterbury Cathedral as "daring and authentic", which may also describe the reading we hear in this performance.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 21 September 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

Guarding the Border: Selected Poems Paperback,...


The Matter of Europe, Menard Press 2005

The Dream of Intelligence, Littlewood Arc 1992 - out of...

Boom, Free Man's Press 1985 - out of print

A Nuclear Epiphany, Friday Night Fish 1984 - out of...

A Fire in the Rain, Martin Brian...

Epistles, Martin Brian & O'Keeffe 1980 - out of print

On the Rocks, Martin Brian...

The Dragon and the Lion, Quill Books 1976 - out of print


1997 Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

Prize website

1976 Arts Council Award

Prize website

1990 Society of Authors Award

Prize website

1993 Royal Literary Fund Award

Prize website


Sebastian Barker

Sebastian Barker Reading from his Poems

1Tilty Mill

2The Green Aphis

3The War of Watch and Pen



6The Walled Garden

7On the Rocks

8Before the Time of the Sundial 1, 3, 4, 8

9The Hand in the Well

10Go, Gracious Words




14The Light on the River

15In the Cradle of the Poets

16Visitation in the Mountains


18Spring Day Near Reepham

19A Sealed Box for Xanthi

20Strike the Lovely Dumb

21Undone by Love

22Drinking Song

23A Love Song to Eros

24Being Here

25The Sage of the Cambrian Mountains

26The Dancing Crocodile

27Curriculum Vitae


29A Book

30Young Woman Dancing

31A Small Ballet of Light

32The Lilies of the Field


34Take hands. The moon

35On the Anvil of the Tongue

36The Visitors

37Tell of the Sad Derangement of the Mind


39Holy the Heart on which We Hang Our Hope

40In the Valley of the Moselle

41The Rites Mysterious

42The Uncut Stone

43The Conscience of the Real

44Walk with Me

45The Fluting Trumpeteer

46The Elderberry Tree

47The Articles of Prayer

48Rosaceous Wonders

49The Stranger in the Pass

50For Eddie Linden on his 70th Birthday

51For Glyn Hughes on His 70th Birthday

52Spirit of the River

A tour of the Archive with Dr Rowan Williams

Poetry happens at a sort of junction in the mind when new combinations start up, words and pictures start connecting...

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Sebastian Barker