Damnatio Memoriae: Erased from Memory
Sebastian Barker’s Damnatio Memoriae: Erased from Memory opens with an autobiographical sequence of poems in which he evokes post and present loves, the urban landscape of London, and the hidden beauties of the Lea Valley. They are all occasions that point towards the reflections to come on the sacred dimension of love and the evil that arises when this dimension is lost. These reflections become a springboard into the main section of the book, in which Barker draws upon Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Ancient Near Eastern traditions to chart the search of the soul for faith in the face of cynicism, cruelty, corruption, and despair. Damnatio Memoriae is in the highest European tradition of St John of the Cross or the ‘terrible sonnets’ of Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is a salutary reminder that we ignore our spiritual needs at our peril.
Sebastian Barker is a considerable figure; vital, prolific, dynamic, and full of fireworks.
Derek Stanford, Acumen
[Barker is] clearly one of the few poets to be committed to hard and serious thinking about the roots of our imagination and spiritual life.
‘[He] takes us deep into both a real and an allegorical landscape, clearly signposted for those who might otherwise lose their way.’
Jane Holland, Blade
After receiving an MA in Natural Science from Oxford University and an MA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, Sebastian Barker worked as a carpenter, a fireman, and a cataloguer of Modern First Editions at Sotheby’s. He then worked as a writer in residence in Berkshire and Lincolnshire, founded and directed literature festivals, and built a house in the Greek mountains. From 1988 to 1992 he was Chairman of The Poetry Society. He also worked for English P.E.N., the Nietzsche Society of Great Britain, and the English College Foundation in Prague.In the 1990s, Sebastian Barker published three works of poetry, Guarding the Border: Selected Poems (Enitharmon, 1992), The Dream of Intelligence (Littlewood Arc, 1992, a long poem based on Nietzsche’s life and works), and The Hand in the Well (Enitharmon, 1996). A Hawthornden Fellow, he lives in Stamford Hill in northeast London. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997 and in 2002 appointed successor of John Lehmann and Alan Ross as Editor of The London Magazine, a post he held until 2008.
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