Presenting Caribbean Writing

By Doering, J. W. | Contemporary Review, November 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Presenting Caribbean Writing

Doering, J. W., Contemporary Review

E.A. Markham, head of Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, was born in Montserrat in 1939, and moved to Britain in 1956. He studied English and Philosophy at Lampeter, followed by academic and stage work (e.g. directing the Caribbean Theatre Workshop in 1970-71), as well as restoring houses in France and holding a post as media co-ordinator in Papua New Guinea.

Initially as a playwright, he began making a serious impact on the literary scene; he then moved into poetry -- Crossfire and Family Matters are just two of his collections, then into short story writing, with such books as Something Unusual, and has recently completed a campus novel. His career has also spanned magazine editing (Artrage, Writing Ulster) and writing residencies (e.g. the C. Day Lewis Fellowship at Brent, London). Throughout all of this he has sought to promote new writing wherever it may be found, as well as an awareness of Caribbean work, which has led him to produce two landmark volumes -- Hinterland, an anthology of Caribbean poetry, and now the recently issued Penguin Book of Caribbean Short Stories, which I discussed with him recently.

The book is the first collection of its kind to appear in Britain, and one of Markham's avowed aims with it is to make readers aware of a body of excellent writing, as well as offering a way into the various texts on offer: the book contains a wide range of different modes of communication -- oral folk tales, a sermon, a section of a novel, and a piece for dramatic performance. This range strikes me as wholly in keeping with the sort of man who has followed a broad spectrum of experiences.

It is to some extent this variety which explains the importance of the book: quality of writing should transcend any artificial barriers of society, intellect, or anything else. This is a concern that has been present for Markham throughout his career, challenging the prescriptive and rigid tendencies of many people. After work done by the Caribbean Artists' Movement (founded in 1966 by Andrew Salkey, John Larouse, and Kamau Brathwate), Caribbean work gained greatly in visibility in the U.K.: `The next stage, the next danger, was that the now visible work would become marginalised or ghettoised ... I personally encountered this in the early seventies when I was part of a poetry troupe, "The Blue Foot Travellers", which was often described as "Black Writing". So that challenge I and others took up to prevent the work being ghettoised -- hopefully in my own work, and also when I edited a black arts magazine, Artrage, where we defined "black" as a political colour.'

The Penguin Book is characterised by a dynamic attitude to race and racial awareness, which is epitomised in `You Left the Door Open', by Pauline Melville, included in the collection. The story deals with a performer who creates characters to entertain live audiences; she invents a character called Charlie, a small-time crook. She buys clothes for him, invents a criminal record, a manner of talking. And then Charlie attacks her in her house during the night, tries to have sex with her, and after a verbal fencing match masturbates and clears away the evidence.

What is so disturbing about this story is its liminal quality, the interface between the real and the imagined, male and female; the possibility of cross-over, and of one state radically affecting another. The lurking threat in things that we normally take for granted. The narrator makes her living by creating characters, constructing them as required from joke moustaches and clothes bought from street stalls. But she is finally faced with the fact that she can invent a man who actually exists, who is tried for sexual assault; in telling the story, she constructs herself as a character, at her own decision, and so offers a fascinating image of someone coming to grips with threat.

The inclusion of this story signals an even-handedness in the general editorial policy, mirrored in Markham's remarks: `Women's voices in what has been traditionally a male-orientated literary (not oral) culture are now becoming, more prominent in scribal culture .

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Presenting Caribbean Writing


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.