Martin Carter
(1927-1997)
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Friday, February 10, 2006

Biography of Martin Carter
Funded by the British Academy



Dr. Gemma Robinson

Research Context and Objectives
My scheme of research seeks to expand and revise the limited biographical work that has been completed on one of the Caribbean’s leading twentieth-century writers – a writer who I contend played a defining role in the development of Caribbean literature, politics and Socialist poetics. The few biographical summaries in print are useful but brief and often contradict each other. No-one has to date compiled a definitive chronology of Carter’s life (1927-1997), nor has anyone written an extensive biographical essay on Carter.

In my completed research on Carter I prioritised bibliographical issues, arguing that Carter’s reputation as the Guyanese anti-colonial writer who fell into political despair belies the broad concerns of his published poetry (Robinson 2003). I now wish to focus on specific biographical questions relating to Carter in order to produce a definitive biographical essay, incorporating a chronology of his life and a critical assessment of his political and literary career. Carter’s contributions to Caribbean anti-colonialism and his affiliations with international Socialism have long been acknowledged (Asein 1972), but they remain under-researched. Furthermore, there has been no research carried out on Carter’s work for the British Council in the 1950s, the Bookers Group in the 1960s, the University of Essex in the 1970s and the University of Guyana in the 1980s. Therefore, the main objectives of the proposed research are (1) to identify and describe key and/or under-researched periods in Carter’s life, (2) to clarify our understanding of Carter’s literary, political and social concerns through an assessment of his literary and political career, and thereby (3) to prove the significance of Carter as a twentieth-century writer and political activist. This project is essential for continued research on Carter. As well as constituting a project complete in itself, the biographical research enabled by this grant is also integral to my longer-term project of producing a critical edition of Carter’s poetry and prose.

Research Methodology
I adopt a historicist approach to the study of Martin Carter’s life and work. The parameters of this biographical project have in part been established in relation to my completed bibliographical research on Carter’s poetry. Several of the key periods in which I am interested coincide chronologically with the dates of Carter’s major poetic publications (Carter 1954, 1977, 1980). During my previous research I had almost exclusive access to Carter’s private notebooks and I interviewed many of Carter’s friends, family and work colleagues concerning his poetry. My methods of research reflect my belief that Carter’s biography can only be constructed within an interdisciplinary context. I use both oral and written, and academic and non-academic sources, in order to establish the fullest account of Carter’s literary and political career.

References
Carter, Martin, Poems of Resistance from British Guiana (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1954).
Poems of Succession (Port of Spain and London: New Beacon, 1977).
Poems of Affinity (Georgetown: Release, 1980).
Asein, Samuel O., ‘The “Protest” Tradition in West Indian Poetry: from George Campbell to Martin Carter’, Jamaica Journal, 6.2 (June 1972), 40-45.
Brown, Stewart, ed., All Are Involved: The Art of Martin Carter (Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2000).
Robinson, Gemma, The formation of Martin Carter’s poetry in the Guyanese cultural context. PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2003.
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