Goodison is poet laureate

By Richard Johnson Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 20, 2017

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Lorna Goodison is Poet Laureate of Jamaica. She succeeds Professor Mervyn Morris who was invested in 2014 as Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate in 61 years. Goodison will be installed during a ceremony at King’s House in St Andrew on May 17. Her tenure as Poet Laureate is for three years and ends in May 2020.


Goodison, who now spends her time between Jamaica and Canada, told the Jamaica Observer she is profoundly grateful to be bestowed with the honour and title.


"I really don’t have a prepared speech, but without a doubt I feel blessed and privileged to take on this honour. It is even more significant that I follow in the footsteps of Mervyn Morris who played such a vital role in awakening the consciousness of many Jamaicans as it relates to poetry," said Goodison.


The National Library of Jamaica in making the announcement said Goodison was selected by a secret ballot vote from a pool of publicly nominated persons by the Poet Laureate Committee of The Board of Management . The Poet Laureate is charged with stimulating a greater appreciation for Jamaican poetry and creating avenues for public involvement in poetry.


Goodison is reserving the announcement of her plans and programmes, but hinted that primary school level children will play a major role.


"My first job after leaving St Hugh’s (High School) was as a bookmobile librarian working the rural communities of parishes such as St Elizabeth and Manchester and quite a lot of my early poems were written while traversing the hills in the bookmobile. But I owe my appreciation of poetry to my primary school education and a headmaster who loved poetry. So I want to do workshops for children at the primary school level. Between the ages of seven to nine, children are natural poets and have an innocent relationship with language... so that’s where my interest lies," she said.


Goodison has published more than 12 books of poetry, including I Am Becoming My Mother (1986), Turn Thanks (1999), Travelling Mercies (2001), Controlling the Silver (2005), and Oracabessa (2012). She has written three short story collections, Baby Mother and the King of Swords (1990), Fool-Fool Rose is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah (2005), and By Love Possessed (2011). Her memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island (2007), described as "a masterpiece of timing and texture", received much critical praise and was awarded British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-fiction in 2008. Her influential work has been anthologised in several collections, including The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, The HarperCollins World Reader, and The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces.


Among her many awards and accolades are the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas Region, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-fiction, and a Gold Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. She is also a member of the Order of Distinction, in the rank of Commander.


"I am looking forward to the next three years to share all that I have learned and do in Jamaica what I have been doing all over the world — to share poetry which is a gift from God to make life easier." Goodison mused.

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