Dr Louis Regis, noted West Indian academic, researcher and literary critic, in delivering a memorial lecture in honour of the late Guyanese poet Martin Wylde Carter on Wednesday at the Umana Yana, shared the view that in his examination of Carter’s poems he found him to be a liberal humanist, and that his poetry and political activism are all derived from this fact.
A release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said the lecture by the Head of the Department of Literacy, Cultural and Communication Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus was entitled, “I am My Poem: the Signifying Elements in the Poetry of Martin Carter.”
Dr Regis, whose specialisation is in the areas of West Indian literature, cultural studies and cultural history, also found that many literary critics have used the fact that Carter would have written many of his famous poets whilst imprisoned, and his political activism to reduce his work and his vision to that of a public political poet. He said that whilst this may be true, it is not the whole truth as Carter also embraced social change.
The lecture was attended by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony, Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran, Professor Al Creighton, along with Carter’s family, friends and admirers of the late poet’s works.
Carter, who was both a poet and political activist, is widely regarded as the greatest Guyanese poet, and one of the most important poets of the Caribbean region.
GINA said that Minister Anthony explained that the occasion was not just another to remember Carter, but one, “To try to understand the words that he would have left with us, to really decipher some of his philosophical thoughts, some of the things that we can glean from his poetry. Perhaps we could use them to inspire us as we move forward with our own lives.”
The minister shared the view that in Carter’s work, one sees his passion for Guyana and relives, Guyanese history. He said that whilst many of Carter’s poems were born out of a specific context, within Guyana, there is that universal appeal. Carter’s work has been able to transcend the boundaries of Guyana and to reach out to the Caribbean and into the larger world because people around the world can identify with what he is saying.
According to GINA, Creighton explained that though the annual memorial lecture series is in honour of the late Guyanese poet’s contribution to local poetry and literature, it also serves to propel the development of Guyanese literature in general in a much wider context, than the work of Carter.
Creighton was quoted as saying, “While it is true that the work of Martin Carter is extremely important and is one of the great contributions, to the national literature, the lecture series has wider reach outside of the work of Carter to the work Guyanese in general, to the subject of Guyanese literature in general, and to the subject of Guyanese culture so that each time a lecture is delivered in the series, it enlarges Guyanese culture and literature and this particular enlargement is being done in the name of Martin Carter, who has contributed so much towards it.”
He also informed that when a particular scholar is invited to present at the ‘Martin Carter Memorial Lecture Series,’ there is no compulsion that the subject of the lecture should be about Martin Carter.
Carter, 1927-1997, is best known for his poems of protest, resistance and revolution. He also played an active role in Guyanese politics particularly in the early years leading up to Independence in 1966. Notable works were Poems of Resistance from British Guiana (1954) and Poems of Affinity (1980). He is best known for the protest poem, “I come from the nigger yard of yesterday,” and another popular poem, “This is the dark time my love,” the release added.