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Lorna Goodison

Cover of Oracabessa by Lorna Goodison
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Categories: 21st Century, Caribbean, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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Paperback (157 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2013)
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(Pub. Oct 2013)
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  • Description
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  • Awards
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  • To Make Various Sorts of Black

    According to The Craftsman’s Handbook, chapter XXXVII
    “Il Libro dell’ Arte” by Cennino d’Andrea Cennini

    who tells us there are several kinds of black colours.
    First, there is a black derived from soft black stone.
    It is a fat colour; not hard at heart, a stone unctioned.

    Then there is a black that is obtained from vine twigs.
    Twigs that choose to abide on the true vine
    offering up their bodies at the last to be burned,

    then quenched and worked up, they can live again
    as twig of the vine black; not a fat, more of a lean
    colour, favoured alike by vinedressers and artists.

    There is also the black that is scraped from burnt shells. Markers of Atlantic’s graves.
    Black of scorched earth, of torched stones of peach;twisted trees that bore strange fruit.

    And then there is the black that is the source of light
    from a lamp full of oil such as any thoughtful guest
    waiting for bride and groom who cometh will have.

    A lamp you light and place underneath – not a bushel –
    but a good clean everyday dish that is fit for baking.
    Now bring the little flame of the lamp up to the under

    surface of the earthenware dish (say a distance of two
    or three fingers away) and the smoke that emits
    from that small flame will struggle up to strike at clay.

    Strike till it crowds and collects in a mess or a mass;
    now wait, wait a while please, before you sweep this
    colour – now sable velvet soot – off onto any old paper

    or consign it to shadows, outlines, and backgrounds.
    Observe: it does not need to be worked up nor ground;
    it is just perfect as it is. Refill the lamp, Cennini says.

    As many times as the flame burns low, refill it.
    Oracabessa is a book of risky journeys, mappings and re-mappings, as the poet navigates place, history and imagination. Goodison travels to Spain and Portugal, to Canada (‘Winter has landed’) and back to the Hope Gardens of her childhood in Jamaica; even to the Old Testament world of Ruth and Hagar. Throughout her journeys she hymns the artists who inspire her: El Greco, John Donne, Billie Holiday, ‘Miles Marley Mozart’. At the end of travel, she is, as she says, ‘Still on the road to Heartease’.

    What is the rare quality that has gone out of poetry that these marvellous poems restore? Joy.
    Derek Walcott
    To Make Various Sorts of Black
    To Make Various Sorts of Black
    Reporting Back to Queen Isabella
    You Should Go to Toledo
    New Sketches of Spain
    O Africans in the Plazas of Madrid
    Bookmarks for Eyes
    O Lisboa
    Not Sadness
    La Casa Dos Dourados
    In a Dream My Mother Says
    In a Little Spanish Town I Google Father Louis
    In Days of Sail
    It Is Sunday in Sevilla
    Sintra’s Glorious Eden, After Lord Byron
    Postcards to Miles
    Spinning in the Head
    Ideas of Home

    Praise to the Limping Angel
    Praise to the Limping Angel
    Limonade Shimmer of Autumn Air Over Aroma of Roast Corn
    A Cure
    A Visit to the East
    At Lunch in Les Deux Magots
    Remember Us in Motherland

    Hope Gardens
    Hope Gardens
    Gauguin Girl
    Our First Christian Martyr
    My Teacher Lena
    Reading Through the Wall
    Bookmobile Days
    Tagore on the Bookmobile
    Town Drunk Recites Omar Khayyam

    In the Blue Boarding House
    In the Blue Boarding House
    A Small Blues for Lady’s Gardenia
    Dance Card
    Otis Ode
    Paul Robeson at Athena’s
    Red T-Shirt
    The Two Sisters Cave
    Your Heart

    Bye Boonoonoonoos
    Bye Boonoonoonoos
    One in a Long Line
    Our Blessed Country Lady
    On Sighting Makak by the Roadside
    The Bear
    A New State
    What Does It Mean
    Everyday Revelations
    Morning Ballad
    A Cleanse Petition
    Note to Self
    Charlie Chaplin at Golden Clouds
    Canto I

    Soon It Is Going To Rain Milk
    Hagar’s Account
    Be It Done Unto Me According To Your Word
    Soon It Is Going To Rain Milk
    St Michael in Sitka
    Mr Davis Runs the Voodoo Down
    Some of My Worst Wounds Again
    From the Bard’s Book of Common Prayer
    About the Kind Who Wrestle With You All Night
    Some More Things You Do Not Know About Me
    I am a Love Siren


    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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