Reed Books: You Are Involved

Jess Reed, Editor

Growing up in Guyana under British rule in the mid-1900s, Martin Carter became one of the most famous, and controversial poets in the Caribbean. While his poetry becomes more cynical towards the end of his life, his political ideals never cease to shine through. One of his poems, “You Are Involved” (1950s), exemplifies Carter’s youthful optimism and political awareness.

The first stanza reads, “This I have learnt:/today a speck/tomorrow a hero/hero or monster/you are consumed!” By equating all people, despite social rank, Carter establishes himself as non discriminate. This idea of being “consumed” appeals to a sense of fear in the audience, which Carter uses to radicalize them. He wants to point out that everyone is a victim to capitalism in some way, even if they do not believe themselves to be. 

He goes farther with this idea in the second stanza, writing, “Like a jig/shakes the loom;/like a web/is spun the pattern/all are involved!/all are consumed!” He shifts from singular to plural pronouns (“you” to “all”) to emphasize his point of victimhood. What takes this short poem to a deeper level is the use of natural imagery to convey his final point: the failures of capitalism are intentional. He describes capitalism as a pattern spun like a web – on purpose. Carter knows that his socialist identity is not palpable to the general public, so instead of focusing on this identity, he focuses on the downsides of capitalism. The same idea is parroted in modern socialists, who claim that “poverty is a feature of capitalism, not a bug.” Whether this speaks to Carter’s timelessness, or as critics say, his unoriginality, is up for debate.

What’s a little heartbreaking about this poem is Carter’s genuine faith. His exclamation points, and audience, prove that he really believes he can, and will, radicalize the people of Guyana. Unfortunately he is jailed a few times in the following decades, and grows bitter, but he never fully abandons his socialist opinions.