Place of birth
National identity
United Kingdom

E.A. Markham

Short biography
Born in the village of Harris, Montserrat, West Indies in 1939, E.A. (Archie) Markham's large, cultivated, extended family (theirs was, as his friend Howard Fergus describes, a 'near Great-House') continues to provide him with much material for his fiction and poetry. He began a classical education at Montserrat's only grammar school, but left the island in his youth to complete his education in Britain. Nevertheless, he has remained closely concerned with the fortunes of Montserrat, particularly after the devastating hurricane Hugo of 1989 and the volcanic eruption of a few years later that continues to threaten Montserrat's very existence as a society. With Howard Fergus he edited the book, Hugo versus Montserrat (1989) produced to raise money for the relief effort.

In the UK, Markham studied Philosophy and English at the University of Wales, and researched Seventeenth Century comedy at the Universities of East Anglia and London. He has lived in the UK since 1956, though he is also an inveterate traveller, living for extended periods in Germany and France (involved with a house-building co-operative) and for two years was a Media Co-ordinator in Papua New Guinea, an experience he records in A Papua New Guinea Sojourn: More Pleasures of Exile (Carcanet, 1998). Since 2005 Markham has lived in Paris.

He has worked in the theatre, in the media, as a university lecturer and is a literary editor. From 1970-71, he was director of the Caribbean Theatre Workshop in the Eastern Caribbean. He has been writer-in-residence at the Universities of Humberside and Ulster, has taught at the University of Newcastle and has been a Visiting Writing Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin, and, for fourteen years was Professor of Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. He has edited Artrage, Writing Ulster and Sheffield Thursday, and two important collections of Caribbean writing, Hinterland: Caribbean Poetry from the West Indies and Britain (1989) and The Penguin Book of Caribbean Short Stories (1996).

His own poems first poems appeared in various literary journals and pamphlets in the 1970s. During that period he began to experiment with various personae. He wrote as E.A. Markham, but also as Paul St. Vincent, who is given the biography of a St. Vincentian of working class origins, and an angry inner-city voice quite distinct from that of E.A. Markham. Paul St. Vincent (three pamphlets were published in his name) even invented a further persona who speaks in his verse, the anti-hero Lambchops. Markham then went one further by publishing poems in the persona/voice of Sally Goodman, a young, feminist Welsh woman. Later, in his short stories and in his novel, Marking Time Markham creates a regular alter ego, the shrewd but comically bumbling figure of Pewter Stapleton. All this is evidence of Markham's refusal to be defined by the kind of stereotypes which he felt dominated too much of the discourse of the 1970s and 80s concerning Black writing in the UK. He has always demanded the freedom to go where he pleased. But it was also a profoundly Caribbean position: to play with masks, to engage in the trickster posture of Anancy, to speak with a voice in dialogue and contradiction with itself. Markham's significance has not been properly recognised, though some essays in A Festschrift for E.A. Markham (ed. F. Vollens & T.O'Rourke, 1999) and a clutch of recent reference books have begun to address this deficiency.

E.A. Markham's poetry publications include Human Rites (1984), Living in Disguise (1987), Towards the End of a Century (1989), Letter from Ulster & the Hugo Poems (1993), Misapprehensions (1995), A Rough Climate (2002), John Lewis & Co. (2003) and Lambchops with Sally Goodman (2004). His short story collections comprise: Something Unusual (1986), Ten Stories (1994), Taking the Drawing Room through Customs (2002), Meet me in Mozambique (2005) and At Home with Miss Vanesa (2006). His novel, Marking Time, was published by Peepal Tree in 1999.

Markham is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature."