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Guinea Woman: New and Selected Poems

Lorna Goodison

Cover Picture of Guinea Woman: Selected Poems
Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, BAME, Caribbean, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (134 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2000)
Out of Stock
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  • My mother loved my father
    I write this as an absolute
    in this my thirtieth year
    the year to discard absolutes

    he appeared, her fate disguised,
    as a sunday player in a cricket match,
    he had ridden from a country
    one hundred miles south of hers.

    She tells me he dressed the part,
    visiting dandy, maroon blazer,
    cream serge pants, seam like razor
    and the beret and the two-tone shoes.

    My father stopped to speak to her sister,
    till he looked and saw her by the oleander,
    sure in the kingdom of my blue-eyed grandmother.
    He never played the cricket match that day.

    He wooed her with words and he won her.
    He had nothing but words to woo her,
    on a visit to distant Kingston he wrote,

    'I stood on the corner of King Street and looked,
    and not one woman in that town was lovely as you.'

    My mother was a child of the petite bourgeoisie
    studying to be a teacher, she oiled her hands
    to hold pens.

    My father barely knew his father, his mother died young,
    he was a boy who grew with his granny.

    My mother's trousseau came by steamer through the snows of Montreal
    where her sisters Albertha of the cheekbones and the
    perennial Rose, combed Jewlit backstreets with French-
    turned names for Doris's wedding things.

    Such a wedding Harvey River, Hanover, had never seen.
    Who anywhere had seen a veil fifteen chantilly yards long?
    and a crepe de chine dress with inlets of silk godettes
    and a neck-line clasped with jeweled pins?

    And on her wedding day she wept. For it was a brazen bride in those days who smiled,
    and her bouquet looked for all the world like a sheaf of wheat
    against the unknown of her belly,
    a sheaf of wheat backed by maidenhair fern, representing Harvey River
    her face washed by something other than river water.

    My father made on assertive move, he took the imported cherub down
    from the heights of the cake and dropped it in the soft territory
    between her breasts... and she cried.

    from 'For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength)'
    The poetry of Lorna Goodison, Derek Walcott says, 'is a rooted, organic delight, true in its intonations to the Jamaican language she loves, fresh in its wit and pain and in the high, spiritual gossip of its leaves.'

    The poet is endowed with all the resources of her two traditions: the African-Caribbean and the European. Her poems are politically illuminating because of the ways in which she celebrates this dual inheritance. Each subject and theme can choose an appropriate idiom. Rooted though the poems may be in certain elected landscapes, the poet is a free agent and finds her inflections in the interplay between languages and occasions.

    Goodison is a black Jamaican woman, but none of those sobriquets adequately defines the rare freedoms that her verse earns from speech and from literature. There is an urgency about her subjects and themes – whether landscape, history or personal experience – which is responsible for the music of her verse.
    The Road of the Dread
    Tamarind Season
    Jamaica 1980
    Garden of the Women Once Fallen
    Songs for My son
    My Will
    The Mulatta as Penelope
    'Mine, O Thou Lord of Life...'
    Keith Jarrett - Rainmaker
    Invoke Mercy Extraordinary for Angels Fallen
    Lullaby for Jean Rhys
    I Am Becoming My Mother
    Guinea Woman
    For My Mother (May I Inherit Half her Strength)
    Letters to the Egyptian
    'I Shall Light a Candle of Understanding...'
    This Is a Hymn
    Heartease I
    Heartease II
    Heartease III
    Heartease New England 1987
    The Woman Speaks to the Man Who Has Employed Her Son
    Recommendation for Amber
    On Becoming a Tiger
    Mother the Great Stones Got to Move
    White Birds
    Missing the Mountains
    October in the Kingdom of the Poor
    Birth Stone
    Bun Down Cross Roads
    In City Gardens Grow No Roses as We Know Them
    Songs of the Fruits and Sweets of Childhood
    Outside the Gates
    Annie Pengelly
    Nayga Bikkle
    Name Change: Morant Bay Uprising
    From the Book of Local Miracles, Largely Unrecorded
    Some Things You Do Not Know about Me
    In the Mountains of the Moon, Uganda
    Morning, Morning Angel Mine
    Bulls Bay, Lucea
    To Us, All Flowers Are Roses
    After the Green Fown of My Mother Gone Down
    My Mother's Sea Chanty
    The Domestic Science of Sunday Dinner
    Turn Thanks to Miss Mirry
    Turn Thanks to Grandmother Hannah
    Love Song for Great-Grandmother Leanna
    Aunt Rose's Honey Advice
    Domestic Incense
    Signals from the Simple Life
    This Is My Father's Country
    My Uncle
    The Sleeping Zemis
    Africa on the Mind Today
    The Mango of Poetry
    To Mr William Wordsworth, Distributor of Stamps...
    Country, Sligoville
    Antoinette Cosway Explains
    The Gypsy in the Russian Tea Room
    Vincent and the Orient
    Max Ernst Painting
    The Jerboa of John Dunkley
    Hungry Belly Kill Daley
    To Become Green Again and Young
    God a Me
    Sometimes on a Day Such as This
    A Bed of Mind
    I Know I Never Lose You
    Angel of Dreamers
    A Quartet of Daffodils
    Coo Coo
    Bringing the Wild Woman Indoors
    The Revival Song of the Wild Woman
    Close to You Know
    Was it Legba She Met Outside the Coronation Market?
    I Am Weary of Winters Mother
    Spending the Gold of Lovers
    About the Tamarind
    For Love of Marpessa Dawn
    Outwaiting the Crazy Wolf Moon
    Lorna Goodison was born in Jamaica, and has won numerous awards for her writing in both poetry and prose, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, the Henry Russel Award for Exceptional Creative Work from the University of Michigan, and one of Canada’s largest literary prizes, the ... read more
    Awards won by Lorna Goodison Short-listed, 2022 The Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry
    (Mother Muse)
    Winner, 2019 The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry Winner, 2018 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize for Poetry
    Praise for Lorna Goodison 'The humble and humbling quality of Goodison's poems has been bedded in a sorrow that is also an exuberance, as if neither can survive without the other. When she uses a striking metaphor, it seems just to have occurred to her, driven by deftness of perception rather than the pressure and labor of invention... Goodison's poems display what we should always look for, a new way of looking at the world. And a fresh way of speaking it.'

    William Logan, The New Criterion

    'Goodison sheds light on how sharing stories helps us make sense of our world while illuminating the under-explored multitudes that shape it.'

    Robyn Fadden, Montreal Review of Books 

    'Mother Muse is a multiple goddess: while the collection sounds like, and oft en is, a rhapsodic celebration centred on brave, gifted and nurturing females,Goodison's idea of the muse is more complex than that.'
    Carol Rumens, The Poetry Review

    'Her female characters spring from the page, speaking in perfect pitch'

    Martina Evans, Irish Times Books of the Year 2021

    '...a major voice in Caribbean poetry' 

    Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian Review Roundup

    'A passionate, political collection... Goodison speaks out for future generations'

    The Poetry Book Society Summer Bulletin

    'A Caribbean and international great.'
    Jeremy Poynting, Managing Editor of Peepal Tree Press, Guardian Best Books of 2017

    'The collected works of the recently appointed Jamaican poet laureate is an endlessly moving and rewarding...Four decades of insight and honesty are gathered in some 600 pages of rich, often fabular verse' Financial Times on Collected Poems
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