Michael Gilkes (writer)

Michael Arthur Gilkes (5 November 1933 – 14 April 2020)[1][2] was a Caribbean literary critic, dramatist, poet, filmmaker and university lecturer. He was involved in theatre for more than 40 years,[3] as a director, actor and playwright,[4][5] winning the Guyana Prize for Drama in 1992 and 2006, as well as the Guyana Prize for Best Book of Poetry in 2002. He was also respected for his insight into and writings on the work of Wilson Harris.[6]

Michael Gilkes
Michael Arthur Gilkes

5 November 1933
Died14 April 2020(2020-04-14) (aged 86)
London, England
OccupationLiterary critic, dramatist, poet, filmmaker and university lecturer
AwardsGuyana Prize for Literature


Gilkes was born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana).[1] His involvement with theatre began in his native Guyana when he was about 12 years old, working in school theatre, and he went on to become involved with the Theatre Guild of Guyana.[7]

Gilkes taught at a number of universities in the Caribbean, Canada and the United Kingdom over the past 40 years, including at the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of Warwick,[8] the University of Guyana, the University of the West Indies (where he served as Reader in English and Head of the English department) in Barbados and the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in St. Lucia.[3] He was a Quillian Visiting Professor at Randolph-Macon Woman's College.[9] In Bermuda he directed plays and taught a theatre workshop put on by the Department of Community & Cultural Affairs at The Berkeley Institute.[7]

His work includes Couvade: A Dream-play of Guyana (published 1974), Wilson Harris and the Caribbean Novel (1975), and The Literate Imagination: Essays on the Novels of Wilson Harris (1989). An unfinished project that Gilkes was working on was the film Maira and the Jaguar People, set in the Rupununi in 2016,[2][10] with a cast mainly featuring the indigenous Makushi population of Surama.[11]

His play Couvade was first performed at the first Carifesta in 1972,[12][13] and in 1978 was produced at the Keskidee Centre in London, directed by Rufus Collins, with a cast including Imruh Caesar and others.[14][15]

Gilkes died in London on 14 April 2020, aged 86, after contracting COVID-19.[16]


His play A Pleasant Career, about the life and fiction of Edgar Mittelholzer, won the Guyana Prize for Drama in 1992.[3] Joanstown and other poems, a collection of poetry,[17] won the Guyana Prize for Best Book of Poetry in 2002.[9] Gilkes won the Guyana Prize for Drama again in 2006 for his play The Last of the Redmen.[9][18]

Selected bibliographyEdit

  • Couvade: a dream-play of Guyana, Longman Caribbean, 1974
  • Wilson Harris and the Caribbean Novel, Longman Caribbean, 1975
  • Racial Identity and Individual Consciousness in the Caribbean Novel, 1975. (Edgar Mittelholzer memorial lectures)
  • The West Indian Novel, Twayne, 1981
  • Creative Schizophrenia: The Caribbean Cultural Challenge, Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick, 1987
  • The Literate Imagination: Essays on the Novels of Wilson Harris, Macmillan Education, 1989, ISBN 978-0333495186
  • Joanstown and Other Poems, Peepal Tree Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1900715768
  • Two Plays: Couvade & A Pleasant Career (Caribbean Modern Classics), Peepal Tree Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1845231897
  • Heart / Land: Poems on Love & Landscape, 2015, ISBN 978-1504947817


  1. ^ a b "Obituary – Michael Gilkes", Stabroek News, 19 April 2020. (Compiled by Al Creighton, Vanda Radzik, Marina Taitt and Jocelyn Dow.)
  2. ^ a b "Guyanese playwright Michael Gilkes dies from COVID-19 complications", Guyana Chronicle, 15 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Michael Gilkes". The West Indian Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Bermuda to take on Derek Walcott's play `Remembrance'", The Royal Gazette, 29 October 1998.
  5. ^ "Walcott's `Remembrance' is a must-see!", The Royal Gazette, 7 November 1998.
  6. ^ "Michael Gilkes interviews Sir Wilson Harris", Kaieteur News, 11 July 2010.
  7. ^ a b Jessie Moniz, "'We unblock people'", The Royal Gazette, 9 March 2010.
  8. ^ Kim Dismont, "Playwright explores Caribbean heritage in `Remembrance'", The Royal Gazette, 13 October 1998.
  9. ^ a b c "Michael Gilkes". Peepal Tree Press. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  10. ^ Crystal Stoll, "Local playwright puts the spotlight on Surama", Guyana Chronicle, 22 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Guyanese Writer Michael Gilkes dead at 86", Stabroek News, 15 April 2020.
  12. ^ Martin Banham, Errol Hill, George Woodyard, Bertrand Piccard, Olu Obafemi (eds), The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 188.
  13. ^ "Amerindian Month 2012 – “COUVADE” by Michael Gilkes", Guyanese Online.
  14. ^ Poster for Couvade, Victoria and Albert Museum Collections.
  15. ^ ARTS AND AFRICA No.243, BBC African Service.
  16. ^ Denis Chabrol, "COVID-19 kills Guyanese literary icons in US, Britain", Demerara Waves, 14 April 2020.
  17. ^ Rebecca Moore, "Joanstown: A Different Look at Guyana", Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple, the jonestown report, Volume 19, November 2017.
  18. ^ Frank Birbalsingh, "Superb stagecraft, wit and vitality in Gilkes’ ‘Red Men’", Arts & Entertainment, IndoCaribbean World, 5 September 2007.

External linksEdit