After reading ‘I am Becoming My Mother’, I take a look at Guinea Woman and For My Mother, a collection published in 2000.
Guinea Woman & Selected Poems
paperback published 2000, Carcanet
Maybe it is me but there is always a lushness to Lorna Goodison’s poetry. The feel of her words surrounding you as you read, a sorrow or bittersweet note coloured by the undergrowth of her formative island home. Even the harshness of some poems are influenced by the colour and warmth of her environment in the Caribbean, others to the more sombre landscapes of the North and Europe. Even here she is able to prick the poems with colour.
Lorna Goodison’s poetry is a distinct counterbalance to the bright-glittering lines of my last read: Smoothie, by Claudine Toutoungi (Carcanet)
Guinea Woman contains poems from the publications: I Am Becoming My Mother and Heartease plus a great many as ‘New and Selected’
I mention above ‘lushness’ and depth (undergrowth) and her tone of bittersweet. I should pick up also on the fact that within these emotions lies a core of flashing steel; or maybe I should refer you to her poem ‘On Becoming a Tiger’ which for me suggests her need to become such, maybe as a self-portrait. Deeper into this collection and her poems become more extended. Throughout she frequently places the role of the poet to sit with the people, those torn away and subjugated but still surviving. Their history, her history, and the catching at truth in the midst of the islands. Yet despite the hardships of the past or her then present, the enveloping plants and sweet smelling herbs give succour and support. Her poetry is frequently about the ‘injustice’ (To put it oh-so too mildly!) of people against one another, of the world of transportation and slavery and how that ‘hinge’ has weighed down so many people. Yet hope, beauty and humanity survive despite the failure of history to truly recompense and the continued need to call for true freedom.
and: In city gardens grow no roses as we know them
I have never been to Jamaica but in reading Lorna Goodison I can believe in the heat, the colour, the rhythm of life and language, the humour and both injustice and truth of this sensuous world she shows us.
You can meet her family here and a wealth of people in the pleasure of her verses and the justly acute observations on history and still the present, that sadden and frustrate. When she is far away from her origins you hear that too. Her anger and maybe scorn sometimes surprises the reader in poems.
Noting the particular pleasure I had in reading : The Mango of Poetry, I offer this to any poet, would-be or active as a balance to some texts on writing poetry. I have just see that this poem is is also highlighted on the back cover of her latest full collection since she became Poet Laureate of Jamaica on 17th May 2017 ( until 2020).
All-in-all, this may be a collection published in 2000 but it is a grand set to read and covet. But then, now a more complete selection is published perhaps that should become my standard! Of her work, to quote the last verse of The Mango of Poetry: ‘And I say that this too would be/ powerful and overflowing/ and a fitting definition/ of what is poetry.’
I Am Becoming My Mother may be a classic poem, ripe for study, but to gather the fruits of this author you really need to dig only a little deeper and Guinea Woman: New & Selected Poems should satisfy any reader of Poetry whatever their main interest.
I have indicated a few favourites in the text above, others in this memorable collection to recommend are:
To Mr William Wordsworth, distributor of stamps for Westmorland..….( a poem for students of the W.W. too, surely?).
Annie Pengelly, God a Me, and Guinea Woman
I am sorry to have missed her visit to England in July 2017. Maybe another time.