Jamaica’s Poet Laureate, Lorna Goodison, celebrated for her literary genius by Yale University with $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize

“Lorna Goodison’s poetry draws us into a panoramic history of a woman’s life, bearing witness to female embodiment, the colonial legacy, mortality, and the sacred,”  Windham Campbell Prizes.

Jamaica’s Poet Laureate, Lorna Goodison, celebrated for her literary genius by Yale University with $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize

Photo -https://patch.com/michigan/rochester/oakland-university-welcome-jamaica-s-poet-laureate-lorna-goodison-oct-24

On March 7, 2018, Yale University announced the 2018 recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. The eight recipients, honored for their literary achievement or promise, will receive a $165,000 individual prize to support their writing.

The Windham-Campbell Prizes were established in 2013 by novelist and memoirist Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M. Campbell, to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers working in English with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.

The 2018 recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes are: in drama, Lucas Hnath (United States) and Suzan-Lori Parks (United States); in nonfiction, Sarah Bakewell (United Kingdom) and Olivia Laing (United Kingdom); in fiction, John Keene (United States) and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda/United Kingdom); and in poetry, Lorna Goodison (Jamaica) and Cathy Park Hong (United States).

“Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. This wonderful award will allow me precious time and space to continue my writing. I am honored; I turn thanks on behalf of me and my people. LORNA GOODISON” – Read more here

A recent article on the Windham Campbell Prizes  website states that:

“Lorna Goodison is one of the Caribbean’s foremost writers and the current Poet Laureate of Jamaica (2017-2020). The poet Derek Walcott described Goodison’s work as containing that “rare quality that has gone out of poetry … joy.” Often intensely metaphysical, even theological, her poems are at the same time deeply rooted in the particularities of time and place.

She writes of her mother’s long hours at the sewing machine, of family meals, of funerals and weddings, punctuating her verse with folk songs, hymns, recipes, and family lore. Elsewhere she turns more explicitly to history, writing about the experiences of Rosa Parks and Winne Mandela, finding in such figures the promise of resistance and the hope for liberation. In “Mother, the Great Stones Got to Move,” Goodison writes: “one stone is wedged across the hole in our history / and sealed with blood wax. / In this hole is our side of the story.” Goodison has long worked to move the stone, and to deliver untold stories—of duty and desire, of language and history—into the world.”

Lorna Goodison was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1947. She was educated at St. Hugh’s High School, a leading Anglican high school in Jamaica, and studied at the Jamaica School of Art, before going on to the Art Students League of New York.

Goodison is also a painter and has illustrated her own book covers, has exhibited her paintings internationally and features her own artwork on the covers of her books.

She is Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan, where she was the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afro-American Studies.

She has published 13 collections of poems: Tamarind Season (1980), I Am Becoming My Mother (1986), Heartease (1988), Poems (1989), Selected Poems (1992), To Us, All Flowers Are Roses (1995), Turn Thanks (1999), Guinea Woman (2000), Travelling Mercies (2001), Controlling the Silver (2005), Goldengrove (2006), Oracabessa (2013) and Supplying Salt and Light (2013). Oracabessa won the Poetry category of the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

Goodison has also published two collections of short stories, Baby Mother and the King of Swords (1990) and Fool-Fool Rose Is Leaving Labour-in-Vain Savannah (2005). Her memoir, From Harvey River, was published in 2008 and was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in May 2009, read by Doña Croll.

On 6 August 2013, she was awarded the Jamaican national honour of the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD), for outstanding achievements in Literature and Poetry.

Some of her Awards

  • 1999 Musgrave Gold Medal by the Institute of Jamaica for contributions to literature
  • 2013 Jamaican national Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD)
  • 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, Oracabessa
  • 2017 Selected as Jamaica’s first female Poet Laureate and the island’s second nationally appointed Poet Laureate. Her appointment was made formal on 17 May 2017 and she will serve a three-year term, from 2017 to 2020.
  • 2018 Windham–Campbell Literature Prize in Poetry


Compiled by Karl A. Haughton



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