Whilst still working as a lecturer in further education and trade union activist, Jeremy began a Ph D at the University of Leeds focusing on the relationship between imaginative literature and ethnic diversity in Trinidad and Guyana. This focused on the presence and writing of Indians in the Caribbean. His research brought him to the Caribbean for the first time in 1976. A conversation with the Guyanese writer Rooplall Monar in 1984 was the germ that started Peepal Tree, and the press was launched with Monar’s book Backdam People. In 1985 he finally completed the very part-time thesis. His amateur academic ‘career’ was rather cut short by the formal establishment of Peepal Tree Press in 1986. After years of struggling to manage both lecturing work and Peepal Tree, he was able to take early retirement from his college in 1996 to devote his time fully to Peepal Tree.
He acknowledges several inspirations and mentors in the establishment of Peepal Tree. They include John La Rose and Sarah White of New Beacon, Jessica and Eric Huntley of Bogle L'Ouverture and Anson Gonzalez of The New Voices. Respects to the memory of those no longer with us.
In 2014 he was awarded an honorary DLitt by the University of the West Indies (St Augustine). The citation said: "Jeremy Poynting, who for years has been an authority on Caribbean literature and culture, is recognised for his work as editor and director of Peepal Tree Press and his invaluable contributions to Caribbean literature." In 2016 he was awarded the Henry Swanzy prize by the NGC Bocas Litfest. In 2018 he was awarded an Hon FRSL, and in 2023 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Leeds Beckett University.
He does have a life outside Peepal Tree with a wife of 55 years and six grandchildren. He walks, listens to jazz, reggae, African and some classical music, and finds some time to read outside Peepal Tree activities.