Lorna Goodison

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Lorna Goodison
BornLorna Gaye Goodison
(1947-08-01) 1 August 1947 (age 72)
Kingston, Jamaica
OccupationPoet; painter
Notable awards Musgrave Gold Medal, 1999
Order of Distinction, 2013
OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, 2014
Poet Laureate of Jamaica, 2017
Windham–Campbell Literature Prize, 2018
Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2019

Lorna Goodison CD (born 1 August 1947) [1] is a Jamaican poet, a leading West Indian writer of the generation born after World War II, currently dividing her time between Jamaica and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she teaches at the University of Michigan. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Jamaica in 2017, succeeding Mervyn Morris. [2] In 2019 she was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. [3]


Poet and literary scholar Edward Baugh says: "one of Goodison’s achievements is that her poetry inscribes the Jamaican sensibility and culture on the text of the world". [4] Apart from issues of home and exile, her work also addresses the power of art to explore and reconcile opposites and contradictions in the Caribbean historical experience. Kei Miller notes, "Primarily a poet, Goodison hasn’t been afraid of crossing the fence into other genres: she has written short stories and a much-celebrated memoir. ...I suspect she still isn't as celebrated as she really ought to be because there simply doesn’t exist the perfect critical language to talk about what she is doing, the risks she is taking, and why exactly they succeed." [5]

Also a painter, Goodison has illustrated her own book covers, as well as exhibiting her artwork in the Caribbean, the US and Europe. [6]


Lorna Gaye Goodison was born in Kingston, Jamaica, [1] one of nine siblings (who include the award-winning journalist Barbara Gloudon). [7] She was educated at St. Hugh's High School, a leading Anglican high school in Jamaica, and studied at the Jamaica School of Art, before going on to the Art Students League of New York. [8] [7] As well as painting, she had also been writing poetry since her teenage years; some early poems appeared anonymously in the Jamaica Gleaner . Goodison has described poetry as "a dominating, intrusive tyrant. It's something I have to do — a wicked force". [9] She has also acknowledged: "A lot of what I learned about creative writing is owed to Derek Walcott, so I learned from the best." [7]

In her twenties, back in Jamaica, she taught art and worked in advertising and public relations before deciding to pursue a career as a professional writer. She began to publish under her own name in the Jamaica Journal , and to give readings at which she built up an appreciative audience.

In the early 1990s, Goodison began teaching part of the year at various North American universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of Michigan.

She has published 13 collections of poems: Tamarind Season (1980), I Am Becoming My Mother (1986), Heartease (1988), Poems (1989), Selected Poems (1992), To Us, All Flowers Are Roses (1995), Turn Thanks (1999), Guinea Woman (2000), Travelling Mercies (2001), Controlling the Silver (2005), Goldengrove (2006), Oracabessa (2013) and Supplying Salt and Light (2013). Oracabessa won the Poetry category of the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. [10]

Goodison has also published three collections of short stories, Baby Mother and the King of Swords (1990), Fool-Fool Rose Is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah (2005), and By Love Possessed (2012). [11] Her memoir, From Harvey River, was published in 2008, and was featured on BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in May 2009, read by Doña Croll. [12] Goodison's first collection of essays, Redemption Ground: Essays and Adventures, was published in 2018 by Myriad Editions. [13] [14]

Her work has appeared widely in magazines, has been translated into many languages and over the past 25 years has been included in such major anthologies as Daughters of Africa (1992), Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry (2003), the HarperCollins World Reader, the Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, and Longman Masters of British Literature (2006). [15] [16] [8]

She has exhibited her paintings internationally, and her own artwork is usually featured on the covers of her books. [6]

Since 2017 Goodison has worked with dub poet and martial arts trainer Cherry Natural (born Marcia Wedderburn) to host a series of summer workshops pairing poetry and self-defence for girls aged from nine to 17, held at the Institute of Jamaica. [17] [18]


On 6 August 2013, she was awarded the Jamaican national honour of the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD), "for outstanding achievements in Literature and Poetry". [19] [20]

On 17 May 2017, Goodison was invested as the second official poet laureate of Jamaica, after Mervyn Morris, becoming the first woman to hold the title. [21] [22] [23] [24] She marked her first Emancipation Day in the role with a poem "In Celebration of Emancipation", which commemorates the end of enslavement of African peoples in Jamaica. [25] She has said: "I don't think it is an accident that I was born on the first of August, and I don't think it was an accident that I was given the gift of poetry, so I take that to mean that I am to write about those people and their condition, and I will carry a burden about what they endured and how they prevailed until the day I die." [26]

In March 2018, Yale University announced Goodison as one of eight recipients (the others being Lucas Hnath, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sarah Bakewell, Olivia Laing, John Keene. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, and Cathy Park Hong) of a Windham–Campbell Literature Prize, honouring writers for their literary achievement or promise and awarding them each a US$165,000 individual prize to support their writing. [27] [28] [29] [30]

Goodison was announced in December 2019 as recipient of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. [31] [32]




Short stories



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  1. 1 2 Deborah A. Ring, "Goodison, Lorna." Contemporary Black Biography. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 11 September 2013.
  2. Richard Johnson, "Goodison is poet laureate", Jamaica Observer , 20 March 2017.
  3. 1 2 "Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2019 awarded to Lorna Goodison". The Royal Household, 18 December 2019.
  4. Edward Baugh, "Making Life", Caribbean Review of Books , February 2006.
  5. Kei Miller: "An Appreciation of Lorna Goodison", Carcanet Press, 15 November 2013.
  6. 1 2 "Goodison, Lorna 1947–", Encyclopedia.com.
  7. 1 2 3 "Lorna Goodison - Poet Laureate, A Lover Of Country, A Voice To Its People", Jamaica Gleaner, 19 May 2017.
  8. 1 2 "Lorna Goodison", Poetry Foundation.
  9. Interview with The Guardian , quoted in the introduction to her 1986 collection of poetry, I Am Becoming My Mother.
  10. "Three Writers Join The Shortlist For The 2014 OCM Bocas Prize" Archived 30 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine , Bocas News, NGC Bocas Lit Fest, 30 March 2014.
  11. Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, "Fiction Chronicle" (review of By Love Possessed), The New York Times , 14 December 2012.
  12. "From Harvey River", Book of the Week, BBC Radio 4, 5 May 2009.
  13. "SOLD OUT! An evening with poet Lorna Goodison in conversation with Margaret Busby", Waterstones, London – Trafalgar Square, 30 August 2018.
  14. The Arts Hour, BBC World Service, 11 September 2018.
  15. Lorna Goodison page at Carcanet.
  16. Lorna Goodison at Myriad.
  17. Sharlene Hendricks, "Using poetry as a self-defence tool", Jamaica Observer, 12 August 2018.
  18. "All Flowers Are Roses – self-defence programme champions girls", Loop Jamaica, 20 August 2018.
  19. National Honours and Awards, Office of the Prime Minister, 2013.
  20. "The Arts Play Big Part In This Year's National Honour", The Gleaner, 7 August 2013.
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  26. "Lorna Goodison: Jamaican Poet Laureate", In the Studio (at 1.40), BBC World Service, 29 August 2017.
  27. "J'can Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison wins prestigious literature award", Jamaica Observer, 7 March 2018.
  28. "Jamaica's Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison wins US$165,000 prize", Jamaica Observer, 8 March 2018.
  29. "Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison wins US$165,000 literary prize", Loop, 11 March 2018.
  30. Keisha Hill, "RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Arts & Culture (Special Award): Lorna Goodison - Telling Jamaica's Story Through Poetry", The Gleaner, 16 January 2019.
  31. "Lorna Goodison recipient of Her Majesty’s 2019 Gold Medal of Poetry", The Poetry Society, 18 December 2019.
  32. "Lorna Goodison to receive Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry", Jamaica Observer, 18 December 2019.
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