© Image by Caroline Forbes

Sebastian Barker

(b. 1945)

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

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • Poems, Cygnet Press 1974 - out of print
  • The Dragon and the Lion, Quill Books 1976 - out of print
  • On the Rocks, Martin Brian & O'Keeffe 1977 - out of print
  • Epistles, Martin Brian & O'Keeffe 1980 - out of print
  • A Fire in the Rain, Martin Brian & O'Keeffe 1982 - out of print
  • A Nuclear Epiphany, Friday Night Fish 1984 - out of print
  • Boom, Free Man's Press 1985 - out of print
  • Guarding the Border: Selected Poems, Leather, fine binding. Enitharmon 1997
  • The Dream of Intelligence, Littlewood Arc 1992 - out of print
  • The Hand in the Well, Enitharmon 1996
  • Damnatio Memoriae: Erased from Memory, Enitharmon 2004
  • The Erotics of God, Smokestack Books 2005
  • The Matter of Europe, Menard Press 2005
  • Sebastian Barker Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive 2006
  • Guarding the Border: Selected Poems Paperback, Enitharmon Press, 1997
Sebastian Barker (b. 1945) is the author of many books of poetry and editor of The London Magazine. An ex-chairman of the Poetry Society, he has been a director of several literary festivals, including the Royal Berkshire Poetry Festival, and has held various writer-in-residence positions; he is 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 most recent book, The Erotics of God, was The Tablet's Book of the Year in 2005. His career includes 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 is 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.


1997 Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

1976 Arts Council Award

1990 Society of Authors Award

1993 Royal Literary Fund Award

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