Jeremy Poynting is the founder of Peepal Tree Press based in the UK, the leading publisher of contemporary Caribbean writing. As a literary critic he has published widely in journals such as The New Voices and Journal of Commonwealth Literature on the topic of Indo-Caribbean literature. He is the recipient of the 2016 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award.
With more than three hundred books on its list, ranging from works by debut authors to resurrected classics, Peepal Tree has arguably done more to nourish contemporary Caribbean literature than any other publisher in recent decades. The roots of Peepal Tree Press go back to Poynting’s previous career as an academic, when his PhD research into Indo-Caribbean literature took him to Guyana. The plight of talented writers there with no outlet for publication inspired him to found a literary imprint. His first book, Rooplall Monar’s Backdam People, was published with the most basic of equipment: “‘typeset’ on a daisywheel printer,” Poynting recalls, “and printed in the evenings at the college where I worked.”
In the early days, Poynting ran Peepal Tree out of his garage, printing the books himself and managing two or three titles per year. Its growth into a powerhouse of Caribbean publishing was slow, often difficult, and even more often debt-incurring. But gradual support from the Arts Council of England, the introduction of more affordable digital printing technology, and the arrival in 1994 of Hannah Bannister as the second key member of the Peepal Tree team all helped overcome the substantial challenges involved in running a small publishing house.
Today, Peepal Tree is the publisher of first choice for many emerging Caribbean writers. It has published more winners of the three genre categories of the OCM Bocas Prize than any other publisher, including the 2015 overall winner, Vladimir Lucien’s poetry collection Sounding Ground. Poynting’s achievements have been recognised by the University of the West Indies, which granted him an honorary doctorate in 2014.