I Have a Dream…Blog Hop

archie    ‘Here comes the nimble-footed, silver-tongued Markham…’

…was how Boyd Tonkin introduced EA Markham’s first Tindal Street book of short stories, Meet Me in Mozambique, to The Independence readers of 2005. And it’s a good and fair description – here was a man unafraid to use complex syntax to deal with straightforward ideas and straightforward syntax to deal with complex ideas – but in doing so he never reduced the subjects he was writing about, yes, he showed them up for their absurdity (and the absurdity of language’s limitations as a conduit for ideas) and he put them through the intellectual wringer, but he did it with such playfulness – with such lack of earnestness – that by the end of reading his work, understandings (which doesn’t mean acceptance, not by a long chalk) of racism and the complexities of colonialism and immigration, of displacement and hinterland are left under your skin. In fact I’m looking at this paragraph and realizing that it’s actually only made up of two sentences and that, because of this, this blog will fail its SEO grading for using too complicated syntax. I think I like that! See – Archie’s still freeing me from the tyranny of writing expectations and rules!

mozambique IMG_1048I knew Archie, (the A in EA Markham) for about fifteen years before he died. He was my tutor at Sheffield Hallam where he was Professor of Poetry and where he helped set up the creative writing programme (I did my BA & MA there) and later we became friends through my work at The Poetry School. In fact he was the one who encouraged me to focus on writing poetry. Archie was a poet, playright, critic, editor, and a memoirist (is there such a word?), but it was really when he formed his relationship with Tindal Street and produced his wonderful collections of short stories, often about his alter ego Pewter Stapleton, that, it felt to me, like Archie had finally found his literary home, and even as I loved his poems, I loved his stories more.

IMG_1051So, I’ve been reminding myself why I love his stories by re-reading Meet Me in Mozambique and I was half way through ‘The Moseley Connection’ – an excellent, funny, dark and important story – when I saw the inscription in the front. Look at the date. This blog was fated to be written (and I don’t believe in fate, and I doubt Archie – the philosophy graduate – did either). But look, the last day of Black History Month – anyone who knew Archie knew how he always pushed deadlines to the very end!

I could write pages about Archie’s work, and why this writer “from a small island” is important, but I won’t. I’ll suggest you read the books and listen to his poems at the Poetry Archive and let you make up your own mind

fred vanesa

This blog is part of Writing East Midlands’ I Have a Dream…Blog Hop celebrating Black History Month. There are some other fantastic blogs taking part. #ihaveadreambloghop

Writing East Midlands – http://www.writingeastmidlands.co.uk/dream-blog-hop/

Carol Leeming – http://choreopoems.blogspot.co.uk/

Martin Parker  – http://www.silbercow.co.uk/

Liz Gray – http://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/

Beccy Shore – http://beccysblogforwritingeastmidlands.wordpress.com/

Trevor Wright – TheRaggedlycradphilanthropist.Wordpress.com

8 thoughts on “I Have a Dream…Blog Hop”

  1. Great post Jacqueline. Archie was one on the people I wish knew but didn’t so you were fortunate. I know his work though and this is a lovely tribute to a great man.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks muchly, Henderson. I’ve been looking for videos of him online but there aren’t any, which I just can’t believe. I think he died just on the edge of the rise of mobile phone video cameras. If anyone knows of any videos can you point me in their direction, please?

  2. Uncanny that the book was signed all those years ago but on the same day as the blog-hop. I’d like to read more of your thoughts about Archie (maybe another blog in the future?), he obviously still makes you think about writing, which is a gift. A good blog to stir me and remember Archie; the writer, the man and the friend.

  3. What a lovely comment, Martin, thanks. I think Archie was an influence on a lot of people, especially through his teaching and editing and the way he introduced us to interesting black writers, and hopefully through his own writing. I do think more people should know his work – especially his last three story collections. 🙂

  4. What lovely warm heartfelt post about a writer, I need as result of your blog, need to read more about! It is clear he was an important influence and imparted much to you.
    The date signing -synchronicity or what! Thank you for posting.

    1. Lovely. I hope you enjoy reading Archie’s work, his stories are quite special.

      (P.s I don’t actually go by Jacquie…sorry).

  5. It’s clear that Archie still brings out the best in you. What a fabulous blog! He would have been so proud of you! Correction, he is proud of you and I am sure he has read this( albeit on a cloud somewhere with a half drunk glass of red wine sat beside him).

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