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.