Image by Tony Ward

E A Markham

b. 1939 d. 2008

Markham is tireless in his resistance to orthodoxy, whether artistic, cultural or political. He speaks as he finds, in multiple, unpredictable voices. (Sean O'Brien)

A Verandah Ceremony

E A Markham

To My Mother, the Art Critic

E A Markham

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About E A Markham

E A Markham (1939-2008) had a career that embraced the range of literary life, and more. Aside from his poetry, for which he was nominated for the T S Eliot Prize in 2002, he wrote novels, essays, plays and short stories; he edited anthologies including Hugo versus Montserrat, which dealt with the aftermath in Montserrat of a devastating hurricane, and Hinterland, a key poetry collection in many university courses; he directed the Caribbean Theatre Workshop, was the government's Media Co-ordinator in Papua New Guinea and built houses in France. He held lectureships and fellowships at universities around the UK, including Professor of Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, from where he established the MA in Writing, edited Sheffield Thursday magazine and directed the Hallam Literature Festival. Markham was awarded the Certificate of Honour by the Government of Montserrat in 1997.

It is near-impossible to characterise Markham's poetry neatly; as Sean O'Brien writes, "Markham is tireless in his resistance to orthodoxy, whether artistic, cultural or political. He speaks as he finds, in multiple, unpredictable voices." One voice may focus on the small instance of continuity in the poet's childhood home that has survived 'Hurricane, Volcano, Mass Flight' - a dish almost as fragile as the eggs it holds - suggesting a poet whose sense of himself is as a child of Montserrat. Another voice, in 'A Politically-Correct Marriage', is perfectly at home in a setting that contains the "Fox & Firkin [and] Solicitors between the butcher's and the cake-shop." Further voices, indeed, are deliberately not those of Markham but his personae, one of whom he introduces as follows: "She is Welsh, is young, is white, is blue-eyed, is blonde; is very much, in a way, like me." James Proctor associates Markham's use of play and personae with his interest in Anancy, the trickster Spider-god of African and Caribbean mythology, who appears in 'To My Mother, the Art Critic'.

Markham treats this recording as one performance, his introductions creating a flow from one poem to the next. As may be expected, his interest in voices can be found in his manner of reading, from almost conversational in 'The Lamp' to his making music from rushes and pauses in 'A Mugger's Game'. Answering his own question, "Why do I write?", Markham wrote that "it's always useful to remind yourself that the music of words when strung together by the right sort of composer is one of the joys of living"; this recording well displays his mastery within the music of words.

His recording was made on 17 March 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Additional material and useful links

Carribean Poetry Project

This pioneering collaboration between the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, the Centre for Commonwealth Education and the University of the West Indies aims to help teachers develop their...

Selected bibliography

Looking Out, Looking in: New and Selected Poems Anvil...

Against the Grain: a 1950s Memoir, Peepal Tree 2007


At Home with Miss Vanesa, Tindal Street Press 2006

Selected Poems, Salt Publishing 2003

Taking the Drawing Room Through Customs: Selected...

A Rough Climate, Anvil Press Poetry 2002


Marking Time, Peepal Tree 1999

A Papua New Guinea Sojourn: More Pleasures of Exile,...

The Penguin Book of Caribbean Short Stories, (editor),...

Misapprehensions, Anvil Press Poetry 1995


Ten Stories, (short stories), Sheffield Hallam...

Letter from Ulster and the Hugo Poems, Littlewood Arc...

Towards the End of a Century, Anvil Press Poetry 1989


Hugo versus Montserrat, (co-edited with Howard Fergus),...

Hinterland (editor), Bloodaxe 1989


Something Unusual (short stories), Ambit 1986

Living In Disguise, Anvil Press Poetry 1986


Lambchops in Papua New Guinea, Sow's Ear 1986

Human Rites: Selected Poems 1970-1982, Anvil Press...


Family Matters, Sow's Ear 1984

Love, Politics and Food, Von Hallett 1982

Games and Penalties, Poet and Printer 1980

The Lamp, Sceptre Press 1978

Love Poems and Maze, Lobby Press 1978

Philpot in the City (as Paul St Vincent), Curlew 1976

Lambchops In Disguise (as Paul St Vincent), Share 1976

Lambchops (as Paul St Vincent), Omens 1976

Merely a Matter of Colour (co-editor with Arnold...

Mad and Other Poems, Phaethon Press 1973

Cross-Fire, Outposts 1972

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