It’s the musings, reminiscing, and inspiring stories that makes this book so familiar to its readers. Growing up in Jamaica most children had to sing a hymn and say prayers at the morning assembly before school started, which continues today. Indeed the hymns were an early introduction to rhythmic poetry, something the author reflects on in her essays and adventures. As well, the ring games with their sing-song verses, the riddles, and even the mango man selling his sweet fruits on the street contributed to instilling poetic leanings Jamaican children were so steeped in:
“Buy yu number eleven… Mango
Buy yu hairy, hairy… Mango
Buy yu Blackie… Mango
Buy yu sweetie-come brush me… Mango”.
And the staccato rhyme sung while jumping rope influenced one’s sense of timing, coordination, and word-smithing.
“Massquitta one, massquitta two
Massquitta jump inna hot callaloo”.
Left its Mark
Goodison credits these early verses and recitations, as well as the poems she had to memorise in school, for honing her own voice. Among those poems was William Wordsworth’s “I wondered Lonely as a Cloud”. Seemingly a yardstick of commonwealth teaching back in the day, this famous poem about daffodils will either bring back pained memory, angst, or the puzzling curiosity some felt about a flower that didn’t even grow in the Caribbean. But, suffice to say, this and many other creative British verses that forged the Romantic Age left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of many of us. As well, her celebration of Derek Walcott, the Caribbean poet who ‘schooled’ her ways of seeing, saying, and approaching words, leaves no doubt that his tutelage also left its mark.
But, being a good writer or poet is not just about learning poetry or great literature, it’s about life experiences and the lessons one takes from those events. And, Goodison has certainly had her share of life-changing episodes.
Her touching story of meeting a frightened young groom about to get married when she was only eight years old is testament to the power of words and the calm strength that comes from innocence. And later in life, growing up in Kingston, being touched by hurricanes, meeting — or should we say seeing Sir Laurence Olivier’s son —, ‘dancing’ with her Irish ancestry, and the reality of power cuts created the magical wordsmith we know as Lorna Goodison.
Yes, she has always been a poet, and the personal encounters throughout her life can be measured in stanzas filled with compassion, challenges, and overflowing goblets of words.
Author: Lorna Goodison
Publisher: Myriad Editions