George Barker Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

George Granville Barker was born February 26, 1913, at Loughton, Essex, of an Irish mother and an English father. He attended Marlborough Public School and L.C.C. School, Chelsea, London, dropping out at fourteen to work at “an incredible miscellany of jobs.” Barker early became a Faber poet, with grants from his publishers and from the King’s Bounty. Both his first book, Alanna Autumnal, written when he was eighteen, and Thirty Preliminary Poems were published in 1933; after that, he lived almost entirely by writing. In 1936, William Butler Yeats included a selection of Barker’s work in the Oxford Book of Modern Verse. Barker had the distinction of being the youngest poet in the volume. He was only twenty-six when, three years later, he visited Japan as a professor of English Literature at the Imperial Tohoku University, from 1939 to 1940.

Barker was a restless figure. He married three times and lived abroad much of his life. From 1940 to 1959, he lived in the United States and made only short trips home. Then he went to Italy, where he remained until 1965, returning to the United States to be visiting professor at State University of New York, Buffalo, for a year. He had other visiting professorships in 1966, 1971, and 1974. He moved to Greece in 1975 and lived there until 1981. He then returned to England, living first in Surrey and then in Norfolk. Barker received a number of accolades during his lifetime, among them the Guinness Prize in 1962, the Levinson Prize in 1965, and the Cholmondeley Award in 1980. He died in 1991 at the age of seventy-eight.

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cronin, Anthony. “Poetry and Ideas: George Barker.” London Magazine, September, 1956. Among the best articles on Barker.

Daiches, David. The Present Age in British Literature. 1958. Reprint. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969. Barker’s poetry is addressed.

Fodaski, Martha. George Barker. New York: Twayne, 1969. An extensive work on Barker.

Fraser, Robert. The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker. London: Jonathan Cape, 2001. This biography offers both a portrait of a talented but tormented man and a glimpse of the British literary world in the twentieth century.

Fraser, Robert. “The Pilgrimage Along the Drogheda Road: W. B. Yeats, George Barker, and the Idea of Ireland.” Yeats Annual 3 (1985). Explores Barker’s Irish influence.

Heath-Stubbs, John, and Martin Green, eds. Homage to George Barker on His Sixtieth Birthday. London: Martin Brian and O’Keefe, 1973. A collection of essays honoring Barker.

Sisson, C. H. English Poetry, 1900-1950: An Assessment. 1971. Reprint. New York: Methuen, 1981. Discusses Barker’s poetry.

Swift, Patrick. “Prologomenon to George Barker.” A Quarterly Review 1 (1960). One of the better articles about Barker.