Understanding William's social, spiritual and poetic influences .....




At the end of WW2, William Martin was a man steeped in the Primitive Methodist traditions of the mining communities, who had first found socialism and then, as a result of his experiences in India, meaning in the 'goddess' concept. This inspirational combination led him to find his expression, initially, as an artist.





His initial post war atheism gave way to a re-examination of Christian principles and the deeper meaning within them. He was particularly impressed by the socialistic nature of the Beatitudes and also explored the Gospels of St Thomas and the Dead Sea scrolls.



His movement toward poetry in the 1960's brought him into contact with the works of William Blake, who spanned the artist-poet divide, with a strong, non sectarian religious base. The poem Arl was, in part, inspired by the giant Albion, from Blake's work.






The other great British poetic influence in the postwar era was, of course, Dylan Thomas, who was ripping up poetic conventions and was bringing poetry to the people as never before. Influences were coming across the Atlantic too and the avante guard poetry of EE Cummings was also to attract William.


The most potent local influence was the poet Basil Bunting, who was tempted out of obscurity by Local NE writers to go on to write his epic poem Briggflatts. It was not only his work, but his attitude towards his work, which attracted William. The following are the words of Bunting to student poets, in the early 1970's:

Compare that advice with William's view of his own poetry, expressed as a celtic cross (found amongst notes after William's death):


I make my

poems for


But also sign. Perhaps it

Is a Northumbrian's heed

Of    his    Celtic    heritage.

A Celtic cross is unmistakably

a cross.







to the


of Indian


My cross

or symbol


I leave to

 your own

 eyes and ears - William Martin


(The issue of 'explanation' was always a bone of contention between myself and my father, at readings, as he took a minimalist 'Bunting' stance in this regard.  Any explanations at readings were, therefore, brief. I hope to address this issue by increasing the level of annotation of his work in the future - see 'Newly Discovered Work').