There is a rich seam of Barbadian talent languishing in the cities of the UK. It is desperate for the oxygen of publicity to raise its profile in this challenging and busy land called London.
On a desperate trek across London in search of pudding and souse and cou cou, I ran into a quiet and unassuming Barbadian perched against a bar sipping his favourite rum and coke with the air of a contented soul.
He was Ainsley Carter, born the son of the late Edmund Bradshaw and Ms Francine Carter in 1970 at Workmans, St George. Ainsley has, so far, proudly penned and have had published two books of poetry.
But, who writes and publishes poetry in 2019? What quirk of ambition would lead the former Lodge School student to such avenues that would lead his dreams toward emulating the legendary George Lamming and other literary giants of the Caribbean?
Let Ainsley take up the story: “I never thought seriously about writing poetry. I had a passion for writing and wrote some lyrics for a rap group. They were well received and some of my friends encouraged me to broaden my base. I decided then to do some stuff for postcards. This was pro bono work as my enjoyment was the reward in itself.”
Ainsley had, at this point, trained and qualified as a mental health nurse in Barbados and I questioned how he found the time and motivation to write whilst engaged in such a demanding occupation. He said he did not think seriously about writing until he came to the UK to work in 2001 at the John Howard Centre (East London Foundation Trust) as a nurse. He was fully occupied in mental healthcare and I suggested it must have been very difficult for him. He said he wrote mainly as a hobby and therefore felt no pressure. Indeed, quite a lot of his writing was done whilst on night duty shift at work.
Brimming with confidence and sheets of poetry that covered most areas of day-to-day experiences, Ainsley was now ready to face the world and he wrote his first formal book titled: Poetry, a way of life in 2010. It is a collection of poems and features topics such as nature, love, Barbados and slavery. It was well received by publishers X Libris in New York and his confidence soared from there.
Ainsley Carter’s name has become known in some literary circles in the UK. He read some of his work in London to some of the aficionados of the subject and was seen as a resounding success.
But, surely, I enquired and suggested, the experience before seasoned literary persons must have left him feeling quite numb, not necessarily in awe in such surroundings but certainly nervous of the task before him.
Carter admitted he was quietly pessimistic on the occasion of his first reading. He nervously held back from fully expressing the passions that were embodied in his work and perhaps fell short in giving true life to his subject.
However, he learnt from his first experience. He said: “When I saw that others did not hold back in the recitation of their work, I was then ready to give my other performances all my energy. I released a passion that truly spoke to the sensitivities of my work.”
I sensed a quiet confidence and determination to succeed and I asked whether there had been one moment when he thought he had forged a crack in the ice. Immediately, he recalled the time when he was asked to write a poem for the celebration of International Women’s Day in Great Britain. This was considered a great honour and recognition.
While many new authors are happy to rest on the laurels of their first book, Ainsley was not content to join that category. He soon went to work on a second book and A Journey into the Abyss of the Mind was published in 2012 by Author House of New York. He concedes that the work for International Women’s Day was the inspiration for him continuing to write.
This second release is certainly more provocative to thought and boldness that surely owe their genesis in the confidence he showed the world in the first place. The review of the book hints in part that this collection of poems makes sex its focus and is no more than the sex life and fantasies of Ainsley. I totally disagree with this summation. However, the sexual language in the poetry is playful and full of innuendo and would easily be recognised by Caribbean people.
This article is not to preview the book, but I found it touchingly illuminating and provocative. He invites readers to identify with some of the struggles of life and to understand that they are not alone and can therefore shake themselves from negativity.
He has encapsulated a view of life which is reflected in the title of this book. He wrote: “Once, I was a prisoner in my own mind, captured by the world of greed, power and crime, I have seen the world fall apart but through poetry I shall rise above the clouds, soaring on the winds so high because this is my love, my heart, it is just the beginning… the start.”
I am grateful that the pangs of hunger in my belly led me last week to South London, otherwise I might not have met this fine product of Bajan soil.
Ainsley is now working on his third book. His first two can be purchased online through Amazon or from the publishers Author House in New York.
A Journey into the Abyss of the Mind is a truly remarkable collection of poems of life’s experiences as seen through the eyes of the author. I found it fascinating, and it also ruffled my thoughts in many areas.
Perhaps it might have the same effect on you.
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and Disapora.