Martin Carter
(1927-1997)
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Over the long Easter weekend I started reading my newly-arrived review copy of University of Hunger: Collected Poems and Selected Prose by Martin Carter, edited by my friend Gemma Robinson and published in the UK by Bloodaxe Books. (By happy coincidence, another new edition of Carter's poems edited by Ian McDonald and Stewart Brown will be published by Macmillan later this year.) University of Hunger--which takes its title from one of Carter's best-known poems--includes every poem he published in his lifetime, and is scrupulously annotated--the full treatment. It is, in fact, one of the best edited volumes of Caribbean literature I've yet seen, befitting the work of one of our major--dare I say canonical?--authors.

And it got me thinking, as I sometimes do, how wonderful it would be to have a Caribbean equivalent of the French Bibliotheque de la Pleiade or the Library of America--a uniform series of definitive editions of our major literary works, edited by experts and produced to the highest physical standards, and kept in print indefinitely at relatively inexpensive cost to the buyer. Perhaps one day a sufficiently enlightened (and sufficiently wealthy) benefactor will come along and make this possible. Should that day come, which writers or works would we include? What are the true Caribbean classics, worthy of preservation in this way for future generations?

Carter would certainly make the cut--the other obvious writers would include Jean Rhys, George Lamming, Sam Selvon, Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, Wilson Harris, Kamau Brathwaite, Louise Bennett, C.L.R. James--and who else, Beat blog readers? Who are the canonical West Indian authors? Which not-so-well-remembered writers do you think deserve to be resurrected? I'd make a strong argument for A.J. Seymour myself. Other suggestions? Use the comments below, please.

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