Two Seasons Talking Trees 2015 reader – Lorna Goodison

Lorna Goodison is an internationally acclaimed author of twelve award winning books of poetry, three books of short stories and a prize-winning winning memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and her Island. Her work, which has been translated into many languages, appears in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, as well as the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry and the Harper Collins World Reader. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, the most recent being the 2015 Shirley Verrett Award, which recognises a faculty member at the University of Michigan whose work in the creative fields — teaching, performance, scholarship, or service — supports the success of female students or colleagues who come from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. Her poetry collection, I Am Becoming My Mother, (1986) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas Region, from England’s Commonwealth Institute in 1986. Goodison was awarded a Commonwealth Universities fellowship in Canada from 1990-91 and the Musgrave Gold Medal for contributions to Literature (1999) and Centenary Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. In 2013 she received the Jamaican national Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander for outstanding achievements in Literature and Poetry, and in 2014 she was awarded the One Caribbean Media Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (Poetry).

Many critics consider Goodison one of the finest contemporary anglophone Caribbean writers. Her poems often focus on such women’s issues as sexuality, equality, love, and motherhood. In her poems she also writes about racial issues and the plight of the downtrodden. Goodison blends different dialects, or codes (Standard Jamaican English, Jamaican Creole, and Dread Talk), from her native Jamaica, using them interchangeably, sometimes all three in one line of poetry. Scholars have noted that this use of dialects gives her poetry depth and many layers of meaning.

Biographical Information

Goodison was born in 1947 in Kingston, Jamaica, on August 1—the Jamaican Emancipation Day, on which the abolition of slavery is celebrated. The eighth of nine children, Goodison grew up on a noisy street in a home with a concrete yard. This environment stimulated Goodison’s love for the Jamaican rural countryside. She graduated from St. Hugh’s High School and, after a year of working in the countryside in the Jamaican Library Services bookmobile, she attended the Jamaica School of Art, where she showed promise in writing and in painting. She then traveled to New York City to attend the Art Students’ League. She returned to Jamaica a year later and held various jobs, such as promotional consultant, creative writing teacher, artist, art teacher, and cultural administrator. . In 1980, she also published her first collection of poems,Tamarind Season. In 1991, she began to accept visiting teaching appointments at universities and colleges in the United States and in Canada, including University of Michigan, Radcliffe College, and University of Toronto.

Critical Reception

Goodison’s poetry is highly regarded by critics as well as by her peers. Andrew Salkey, Cyril Dabydeen, and Edward Baugh, all acclaimed poets in their own right, praise her poems both for their lyricism and content, and offer strong testaments to Goodison’s abilities as a poet. Reviewers agree that her blending of the three Jamaican dialects gives her poetry dimensions and depth of meaning, and lend a song-like quality. She is praised for being able to write true feminist poetry without separating men from women. Although at times she exposes the injustices that women experience at the hands of men, Goodison also writes highly acclaimed love poems. Her work is considered versatile, and is written to be enjoyed by men and women, Jamaicans and tourists, the rich and the poor alike.

Principal Works

Tamarind Season 1980

I Am Becoming My Mother 1986

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Lorna Goodison: Chapbook of Poems 1989

Selected Poems 1992

To Us, All Flowers Are Roses 1995

Turn Thanks 1999

Guinea Woman: New and Selected Poems 2000

Baby Mother and the King of Swords (short stories) 1990

(Extracted/adapted from: http://www.enotes.com/topics/lorna-goodison/critical-essays#critical-essays-goodison-lorna-criticism and https://events.umich.edu/event/20834)

 

 

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