William Martin was born in 1925 in Silksworth, Co. Durham. During the Second World War, he was a radio technician in the RAF, based near Karachi, where he was inspired by the Eastern religious and philosophical traditions. After being demobbed he became a gas fitter and later served in the Audiology Department of Sunderland Royal Infirmary, retiring as Head of Department. He has lived in Sunderland since the 1950s.
He was an active member of CND for many years, taking part in the ritual boarding of nuclear submarines in Holy Loch, Scotland in 1961. He became an artist and had work purchased and exhibited by Sunderland Art Gallery. However, oil paints and a young family were not an easy combination, and poetry became his medium from the mid 1960s onwards.
For some years he wrote without any recognition, but in 1971 he had a book of poetry published to commemorate the Wearmouth 1300 Festival (Tidings of our Bairnsea). This was later followed by Cracknrigg (1983) and Hinny Beata (1987) with Taxus, and Marra Familia (1993) and Lammas Alanna (2000) with Bloodaxe.