Lorna Goodison

Lorna Goodison’s poetry draws us into a panoramic history of a woman’s life, bearing witness to female embodiment, the colonial legacy, mortality, and the sacred.

Lorna Goodison is one of the Caribbean’s foremost writers and the current Poet Laureate of Jamaica (2017-2020). The poet Derek Walcott described Goodison’s work as containing that “rare quality that has gone out of poetry . . . joy.” Often intensely metaphysical, her poems are at the same time deeply rooted in the particularities of time and place. She writes of her mother’s long hours at the sewing machine, of family meals, of funerals and weddings, punctuating her verse with folk songs, hymns, recipes, and family lore. Elsewhere she turns more explicitly to history, writing about the experiences of Rosa Parks and Winne Mandela, finding in such figures the promise of resistance and the hope for liberation. In “Mother, the Great Stones Got to Move,” Goodison writes: “one stone is wedged across the hole in our history / and sealed with blood wax. / In this hole is our side of the story.” Goodison has long worked to move the stone, and to deliver untold stories—of duty and desire, of language and history—into the world. She has received many honors, including the Musgrave Medal (1999) and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (1987). She is Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan, where she was the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afroamerican Studies.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. This wonderful award will allow me precious time and space to continue my writing. I am honored; and I turn thanks on behalf of me and my people. LORNA GOODISON