Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My interest in A.J. Seymour goes back to 1998. That was the year that Faber introduced its short-lived Caribbean Series, edited by Caryl Phillips. To launch the series, Phillips, Robert Antoni, & the late Antonio Benitez-Rojo were sent on a Caribbean tour, with a stop in Port of Spain for readings & speeches. That evening, when the formal events were done & the small audience was buzzing around & gossiping, I nervously went up to Phillips & asked if the new series would eventually include poetry. I suggested Martin Carter [*see below] might be a good poet to begin with. He answered noncommittally, then said Seymour was also in need of revival.

Our conversation ended there. I was left with the sense that I ought to know something about Seymour--I was vaguely aware of his connection with Kyk-Over-Al, but had managed at the age of 23 never to have read any of his poems. Then in late 2001 or early 2002 a book arrived from Guyana: Seymour's Collected Poems, recently published. At last! was the first thing I thought.

I ended up writing a short review for Caribbean Beat & a longer one for the Trinidad & Tobago Review. I was fascinated by the poems in the first place, but also by their author, & especially by the fact that he seemed all but forgotten outside Guyana, despite his crucial role in the development of West Indian literature in the 1940s & 50s.

I got it in my head that I'd write a profile of AJS "one of these days"; I quoted his poems occasionally in my blog, & started keeping an eye out for references to him or his work.

Nearly four years later, the profile still remains to be written (it's currently scheduled for publication in Caribbean Beat in 2006), but two recent trips to Guyana have refreshed my interest in AJS & I've stepped up my research into his life & work. Along the way, I've noticed that there's very little useful information on Seymour on the Web--scattered references, almost no hard facts, & at the moment the top Google hit for "a j seymour" is my own review of the Collected Poems.

A little HTML knowledge is a dangerous thing. Partly to force myself to sort through the AJS material I've collected, partly to give him some kind of meaningful online presence, I've put together a few modest pages with biographical information, links to other online resources, & excerpts from some interesting documents. At the moment this is occupying a corner of my already rambling website, but at some point in the future I may get enthusiastic enough to acquire a top-level domain name. And this is very much a work in progress; as time & energy allow, & as I come across more material, I'll try to make the site more useful. Do email with suggestions or criticisms.

So, for what it's worth: A.J. Seymour online.

[* The publishing world has finally come around to Carter. There are currently two substantial editions of his poems being prepared for publication, one edited by Ian McDonald & Stewart Brown for Macmillan Caribbean, the other edited by Gemma Robinson for Bloodaxe.]

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