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The Land of Gold review Sebastian Barker's fond farewell to paradise

Suffused with a love of God and Greece Sebastian Barker's final poems are a holiday for the soul

At the end of Sebastian Barker's final collection, in A Monastery of Light, he writes about the south-west Peloponnese where, he explains in a footnote, "inspired by the modern Greek poets", he bought a ruined house in 1983 for £780 and lovingly restored it "according to the old traditions". "For man to be born and to live, in such a place as this, is indeed/ miraculous./ This becomes more obvious the closer you are to death."

These poems were written in the shadow of death Barker died on 31 January of this year but are filled with the light of being alive, and often with Grecian sun. What makes them unusual is their open-hearted, open-handed Christian faith, their affirmation, the sense of coming closer to God. Barker, son of the poet George Barker and the author Elizabeth Smart, who wrote By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept), was the distinguished author of 14 volumes of poetry. He converted to Catholicism in middle age. Even without sharing his faith, one feels uplifted by his vision, his poems a holiday for the soul. There is nothing stuffily reverential here. In the last poem, The Sea Seen From Sitochori, he refers, with charming, comic off-handedness, to the probability that his late mother may be haunting the place: "She'll be around somewhere, in a prospect rich as this."

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