Lorna Goodison
(Jamaica, 1947)   
Lorna Goodison

Lorna Goodison is among the best-known poets of the Caribbean region. She has published six volumes of poetry. For the sixth, To Us, All Flowers are Roses, she was awarded a Gold Star by the magazine Booklist.

In 1986 she received the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for North and South America, and her latest work won high praise from Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott. She now earns her living as a teacher of creative writing at the University of Michigan.

Goodison's poetry is firmly rooted in her native Jamaica, which she brings to life in earthy, vital images. She evokes the magic of Jamaica in a poem about a witch doctor treating a child, or about the full moon you had better wait for, before going out to cut bamboo. She draws sensitive, at times poignant, but always compassionate portraits of her fellow Jamaicans, and weaves a lyrical wreathe of incantatory, loving images for her dead mother.

Goodison's poems also confront us with her country's tragic past, its history of genocide and slavery that scourged Jamaica and shaped its present. Goodison addresses this history with wisdom and reconciliation, she gives it voice, but also allays it, she suffers the pain, the lingering trauma, but looks for healing, for harmony. Her poem 'About the Tamarind', a flowing epic about the tree that travelled to the Caribbean with African slaves, is a good case in point.

The tamarind is a silent witness of their sufferings: 'I bloom small gold flowers which appear / to bleed the gold of Guinea and the blood / drawn by the lash of slavery,' says the tree. Yet the tamarind possesses healing powers and becomes a monumental symbol of their own powers of survival: 'I came with the enslaved across the seas to bear for you […] I am still here, still bearing after 400 years.'.

© Jabik Veenbaas (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Lorna Goodison took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 1999. This text was written on that occasion.]


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