Biography

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 374

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1947, Lorna Goodison is reputed to be one of the island nation's favorite poets. She grew up as one of nine children in a family that loved books and writing. However, after comparisons were made (while she was still in public school) between her writing and that of one of her sisters, Goodison chose to keep her poetry to herself. When she published some of her poetry in a Jamaican newspaper while she was in high school, she did so anonymously. This reluctance to identify herself with her writing continued through her studies in art school. At length, as Goodison has stated, her poetry took precedence, almost like a tyrant, over all other forms of creative expression. Although she continues to paint (including the illustrations for her collections), Goodison has found that she best articulates her life experiences through poetry.

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Despite her long and loving relationship with the written word, when Goodison graduated from college, her main focus was to find a job that would pay the bills. Hoping that teaching would allow her additional time to continue writing poetry, she found positions at Jamaica College and at a local high school. During this period, Goodison began publishing her poems with her name publicly attached to them. As her reputation grew, she was offered opportunities to travel and to read her poetry in other countries. The more she shared her work, the more she realized that she could finally claim the title of poet.

Not until she reached her early thirties did Goodison see her first collection of poetry, Tamarind Season (1980), published. In the twenty-five years that followed, she added nine more collections of verse to her body of work, including To Us, All Flowers Are Roses (1995), Traveling Mercies (2001), and Controlling the Silver (2005), in which "The River Mumma Wants Out" appears. In 1999, she received Jamaica's Musgrave Gold Medal for poetry. She also writes short stories, some of which were collected in Fool-Fool Rose Is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah (2005). As of the early twenty-first century, Goodison spent part of each year on the north shore of Jamaica. She has been employed as a professor at various U.S. and Canadian colleges, including Radcliffe, the University of Michigan, and the University of Toronto.

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