Lorna Goodison is a Jamaican poet, a leading West Indian writer of the generation born after World War II, currently dividing her time between Jamaica and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she teaches at the University of Michigan.
Lorna Gaye Goodison was born in Kingston, Jamaica, one of nine siblings. 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. As well as painting, she had also been writing poetry since her teenage years; some early poems appeared anonymously in the Jamaica Gleaner.
She has published 13 collections of poems which include: 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), and Guinea Woman (2000). On May 17, 2017, Goodison was invested as the second official poet laureate of Jamaica, after Mervyn Morris, becoming the first woman to hold the title.
The Yard Man: An election poem
by Lorna Goodison
When bullet wood trees bear
the whole yard dreads fallout
from lethal yellow stone fruit,
and the yard man will press
the steel blade of a machete
to the trunk in effort to control
its furious firing. He will dash
coarse salt at its roots to cut
the boil of leaves, try slashing
the bark so it will bleed itself
to stillness, and yet it will shoot
until the groundcover is acrid
coffin color, the branches dry
bones. Under the leaves it lives,
poverty’s turned-down image
blind, naked, one hand behind
one before. The yard’s first busha
was overseer who could afford
to cultivate poverty’s lean image,
but good yard man says since we
are already poor in spirit, fire for it.