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.

Poems by E A Markham

Hand and Eye - E A Markham
To My Mother, the Art Critic - E A Markham
A Verandah Ceremony - E A Markham

Books by E A Markham



writing fellowships at Hull College

Prize website

C. Day-Lewis Fellowship

Prize website

Certificate of Honour by the Government of Montserrat

Prize website

Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

Prize website

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