© Image by Tony Ward

E A Markham

(1939 - 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)

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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  • The 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 knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of Caribbean poetry, and to extend knowledge, understanding and creative engagement with Caribbean poetry among secondary-school students.

Select bibliography

  • Cross-Fire, Outposts 1972
  • Mad and Other Poems, Phaethon Press 1973
  • Merely a Matter of Colour (co-editor with Arnold Kingston), Q Books 1973
  • Lambchops (as Paul St Vincent), Omens 1976
  • Lambchops In Disguise (as Paul St Vincent), Share 1976
  • Philpot in the City (as Paul St Vincent), Curlew 1976
  • Love Poems and Maze, Lobby Press 1978
  • The Lamp, Sceptre Press 1978
  • Games and Penalties, Poet and Printer 1980
  • Love, Politics and Food, Von Hallett 1982
  • Family Matters, Sow's Ear 1984
  • Human Rites: Selected Poems 1970-1982, Anvil Press Poetry 1984
  • Lambchops in Papua New Guinea, Sow's Ear 1986
  • Living In Disguise, Anvil Press Poetry 1986
  • Something Unusual (short stories), Ambit 1986
  • Hinterland (editor), Bloodaxe 1989
  • Hugo versus Montserrat, (co-edited with Howard Fergus), Linda Lee Books 1989
  • Towards the End of a Century, Anvil Press Poetry 1989
  • Letter from Ulster and the Hugo Poems, Littlewood Arc 1993
  • Ten Stories, (short stories), Sheffield Hallam University 1994
  • Misapprehensions, Anvil Press Poetry 1995
  • The Penguin Book of Caribbean Short Stories, (editor), Penguin 1996
  • A Papua New Guinea Sojourn: More Pleasures of Exile, Carcanet 1998
  • Marking Time, Peepal Tree 1999
  • A Rough Climate, Anvil Press Poetry 2002
  • Taking the Drawing Room Through Customs: Selected Stories 1970-2000, Peepal Tree 2002
  • Selected Poems, Salt Publishing 2003
  • At Home with Miss Vanesa, Tindal Street Press 2006
  • Against the Grain: a 1950s Memoir, Peepal Tree 2007
  • E A Markham Reading from his Poems, Poetry Archive 2007
  • Looking Out, Looking in: New and Selected Poems Anvil Press, 2009
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.


1980 C Day Lewis Fellowship

1997 Certificate of Honour from the Government of Montserrat

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