A HOUSE UNDER OLD SARUM
Poems by Joan Barton
Joan Barton was born at Bristol in 1908 and educated at Colston’s Girls’ School, Bristol, and Bristol University, until illness cut short her degree course. In 1929 she began working at Wm. George’s Sons, the Bristol booksellers. In the same year her poems attracted the attention of Walter de la Mare, and through his encouragement were published in The New Statesman, The Spectator, The Weekend Review, The Yale Review, The New York Saturday Review of Literature, The Observer, Time and Tide and London Mercury. In the early thirties she reviewed for The New Statesman and The Weekend Review and she was represented in Best Poems of 1930 and Best Poems of 1935.
From 1936 to 1947 she worked variously for the BBC in Bristol, the Somerset County Council Treasurer’s Department, as County Secretary in Hampshire for the Women’s Land Army, and for the British Council, where she was the director of a department.
In 1947 she and her partner Barbara Watson started the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough. Twenty years later they sold it and moved to Salisbury, where they are still booksellers, issuing catalogues of modern first editions and children’s books from their home.
Meanwhile, she had poems published in London Magazine, Penguin New Writing, Times Literary Supplement, Listen, Wave, Poetry Book Society Christmas Supplement, 1974 (ed. Philip Larkin), Poems from New Writing and Arts Council New Poetry Anthologies No.s 1, 3 and 5. She is represented in the Oxford Book of Twentieth Century Verse. Her poems have been broadcast on BBC tv ‘Closedown’ and BBC Radio 3 devoted a programme to her work in 1974. She was awarded the Southern Arts Association Bursary in 1978. Her first collection The Mistress was published in 1972 by the Sonus Press, Hull. A second collection, Ten Poems was hand-printed in a limited signed edition by the Perdix Press in 1979.
(From cover review in 1981).
The short cut home lay through the cemetery -
A suburban shrubbery swallowing up old graves
Iron palings tipped with rusted fleur-de-lys
A sort of cottage orné at the gates,
Ridiculous and sad;
And lost in their laurel groves,
Eaten up by moss,
Stained marble, flaking stone like hatches down,
The unloved unvisited dead:
In the no-man’s-land of dusk a short cut home -
The exultant sense of life a trail of fire
Drawn into that tunnel roofed with the cypress smell
And walled with silence adding year to year:
Too far, too far: always
Under the smothering boughs in airless dark
The spirit dwindled, and the fire
Flickered then failed:
Gently implacably from the shade
The indecipherable dedications spoke
’Dear wife’ . . . ‘devoted mother’ . . .
’Beloved child . . .
A HOUSE UNDER OLD SARUM
Price £7.95 per copy post free (£5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover drawing: grateful acknowledgement is made to Granada Publishing Ltd. for the drawing by J. Deliss of Salisbury from Old Sarum [Page 19 WILTSHIRE: VISION OF ENGLAND.]
Publication: 1981 (80 pages laminated paperback)