Novelist, poet, short fiction writer and essayist, Wilson Theodore Harris was born on March 24, 1921. He was the eldest of two children.
When he was only two years of age, his father died and when he was six, his step-father seemed to have deserted the family. The family, headed by the mother who was an active member of Smyth Congregational, made a number of house moves, twice in East Street and twice in Lime Street, before settling.
Along with chalking up his first read book, young Wilson was part of an informal literary circle comprising Sheila King and Malcolm King, discussing mainly Shakespeare, Milton and Camus.
During his high school days, he was a member of another literary group, Club 25. This group, limited to twenty-five members only, operated from Progressive High School headed at the time by Leslie C. Davis. It included the likes of Allan Young, W. G. Stoll, E. O. Q. Potter, Maurice Charles and Jan Carew. One of the club’s events was a debate on the moot, ‘Poets and Scoffers’, judged by A. J. Seymour.
Later, when he moved into the world of work, Harris became part of a number of social and literary groups.
One such gathering was labelled the ‘Anira Group’ operating out of the home of Martin Carter’s mother. It included Martin and his brother, Keith, Sydney Singh, and others. That group eventually moved to Carter’s home with additional members like Jan Carew, Slade Hopkinson and Milton Vishnu Williams.
Harris was also a part of a group that met at the home of Cheddi Jagan, many attracted to his vast library and his political vision for Guyana.
Another formal body of which Harris was a member was the Carnegie Library Discussion Circle.
In 1956, when George Lamming visited Guyana to organise public readings, it was Harris who read Carter’s poems because Carter was under house arrest.
So Harris was well grounded in literary matters before his sojourn in the wilderness of Guyana and was conversant in such matters during his years as a surveyor, exploring the ‘womb of space’. So much emphasis is being placed on the influence of the jungle on his work that his steady growth in literature in the ‘civilised’ Georgetown environs is overlooked.
Of all those comments, however, one is quite useful in the reading of Harris. Jan Carew said that Harris’ kind of writing came out of ‘someone accustomed to talking to himself in the Guyana bush for seventeen years’.
So persons accustomed to talking to themselves and thinking aloud would easily get a handle on Harris’ seemingly difficult writings.
What would be useful here is emphasis that Harris attended Queen’s College, one of the top schools at the time.
All (of his city associations) helped to harness the jungle within covers of books.
When he was 17, he left school to train as a land surveyor, an occupation he stayed with until he migrated to England in 1959 where he now lives and is still writing.
Responses to this author telephone (592) 226-0065 or email: [email protected] yahoo.com
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