William Martin (1925-2010) wrote poetry inspired by the social, cultural and religious life of Northumbria past and present. He built his world from myth, from Anglo-Saxon literature and art, children’s games, ballads and street songs, as well as from the history and struggles of pit communities. His poems show both political anger and a wider concern for a society losing its common ground, its rituals and rites of passage.
Marra Familia is the third book tracing his search for the Ancient Feminine and her Marradharma or kingdom, following Cracknrigg (1983) and Hinny Beata. He finds her underground in coal-mines, in song and northern landscape, drawing on various sources, including the Gnostics, to enrich her image and to brighten his vision of common feasting. Marra Familia (1993) was followed by Lammas Alanna in 2000.
‘William Martin is a remembrancer, patiently polishing the common coins of street games, folk songs and customs, and putting them back into circulation… David Jones comes to mind, but not as an immediate ancestor. Martin seems closer to George Mackay Brown, firmly rooted in a specific community and able to give the elements of its common life a sacramental value. But perhaps he is closest of all to the Vasko Popa of Earth Erect, eschewing private poetry to restore the collective symbols, releaf the ikons with gold’ – Roger Garfitt, London Magazine