26th February 1913 (Wednesday)

BORN TODAY, in Loughton, Essex, UK – George Barker, maverick poet and father of 15 children by 4 different wives. “A very perverse poet who would often bugger up a perfectly good poem with a pun in the last line” [Elspeth, his second wife].

“His work was passionate, intellectually challenging and highly original, his language incantatory and often hypnotic. There are echoes of Blake, Housman, Verlaine and Barker’s contemporary, Dylan Thomas. At 22, Barker was a literary phenomenon. TS Eliot declared him a genius, accepted his first work for the magazine Criterion, commissioned him to write a volume for Faber (where Eliot was then poetry editor) and persuaded wealthy friends to set up a support fund. Yeats thought him the finest poet of his generation – better than Auden (whom Eliot initially rejected) and comparable in “rhythmic invention” to Gerard Manley Hopkins.”[The Guardian newspaper, 19 April 2008].

“At the age of nine, inspired by Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, he resolved to be a poet: ‘While other urchins were blowing up toads / With pipes of straw stuck in the arse, / So was I, but I also wrote odes’ ”

“It’s a woman’s duty to be beautiful,” Barker told the Sunday Times in 1983. “When we have a civilised society, they will put down ugly and stupid women.”

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