Written by Chantel DaCosta

Caribbean Writers – Lorna Goodison

lorna-goodison

“My mother loved my father
I write this as an absolute
in this my thirtieth year
the year to discard absolutes…”

From the poem For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength), I Am Becoming My Mother by Lorna Goodison, 1986.

Birth Name: Lorna Gaye Goodison

Place of Birth: Kingston Jamaica

Born: August 1, 1947

Lorna Goodison is a Jamaican poet, short story writer and illustrator. In April 2017, Goodison was named Jamaica’s second poet laureate, and she will serve in this position from May 2017 to May 2020. Goodison is the eighth of nine children of Vivian Marcus and Doris Louise Goodison. She was educated at St. Hugh’s High School.

 

From 1967-1968 Goodison studied painting and writing at the Jamaica School of Art (now the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts).  She then went on in 1968 to study at the Art Students League of New York. As well as painting, she had also been writing poetry since her teenage years; some early poems appeared anonymously in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. In 1980, Goodison published her first volume of poetry, Tamarind Season. She followed up with I Am Becoming My Mother in 1986. This volume was her first work to be widely recognised both on the island and internationally, earning Goodison the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize the following year.

Goodison’s subsequent volumes of poetry include Heartease (1988), To Us, All Flowers Are Roses (1995), Turn Thanks (1999), Guinea Woman (2000), and Goldengrove (2006). In addition, she has penned two short story collections: Baby Mother and the King of Swords (1990) and Fool-Fool Rose Is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah (2005).

Since the 1990s Goodison has divided her time between Jamaica and North America. She began teaching creative writing as a visiting fellow at Radcliffe College and the University of Toronto in 1991, and as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan in 1992. As of 2008 she served as a full-time faculty member in the English Department at the University of Michigan and maintained a home in Toronto.

Noted Works:

Poetry

  • Tamarind Season, Institute of Jamaica Press, 1980.
  • I Am Becoming My Mother, New Beacon, 1986.
  • Heartease, New Beacon, 1988.
  • To Us, All Flowers Are Roses, University of Illinois Press, 1995.
  • Turn Thanks, University of Illinois Press, 1999.
  • Guinea Woman, Carcanet, 2000.
  • Travelling Mercies, McClelland & Stewart, 2001.
  • Controlling the Silver, University of Illinois Press, 2005.
  • Goldengrove, Carcanet, 2006.
  • Oracabessa, Carcanet, 2013.

 

Short stories

  • Baby Mother and the King of Swords, Longman, 1990.
  • Fool-Fool Rose Is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah, Ian Randle, 2005.

 

Non-fiction

  • “How I Became a Writer,” in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, edited by Selwyn R. Cudjoe, University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, pp. 290-294.
  • Three Caribbean Poets on Their Work (With E. Kamau Brathwaite and Mervyn Morris), edited by Victor L. Chang, Institute of Caribbean Studies, 1993.
  • From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People, McClelland & Stewart, 2007.

 

Accolades and Awards:

1987: Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Americas region, Commonwealth Foundation

1990-1991: Commonwealth Universities Fellowship

1999: Musgrave Gold Medal, Institute of Jamaica

2008: British Columbia Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

2013: Jamaican national Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD)

2014: OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, Oracabessa

2017: Poet Laureate of Jamaica

 

Sources: Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Jamaica Observer, Jamaica Information Service, NGC Bocas Lit Fest

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