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n our latest Spotlite exclusive interview, Lorna Goodison – poet laureate of Jamaica – talks to Alessandra about her recently published essay collection ‘Redemption Ground’.

Lorna Goodison is a Canadian-based Jamaican writer. Though she is known more for her poetry, she has written a lot of short stories, a memoir, and now, a collection of essays. The morning after she was presented with the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, we caught up with her for a chat about ‘Redemption Ground’ amongst other things. 

In this conversation, Lorna talks about how she came into writing, as well as how the techniques she picked up, while training to be a painter, influenced her writing. Having grown up with eight siblings, one of which was already a career journalist, Lorna explains that she never set out to become a writer (since that role had already been taken). Perhaps that is why she leaned more towards painting – a profession that she was trained to do, both in Jamaica and in the United States.

Having grown up with eight siblings, one of which was already a career journalist, Lorna explains that she never set out to become a writer (since that role had already been taken).

As is the case with everything that’s meant to be however, in spite of Lorna’s best efforts, she couldn’t stop herself from writing. And so she went from the writer who would be a painter to the painter who would be a writer – from writing only to herself to publishing her work anonymously. By the time she finally mustered the courage to step out of the shadows and into her light, the rest would become history. She published her first body of work in 1980, and ever since then, she hasn’t looked back. Over the years, she would rise in prominence to become Jamaica’s first female poet laureate, and the first black woman to receive the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Talking about her inspiration, Lorna explains that even though she had a chance to study history at university, she opted not to as she wanted to “write history from below” – an expression that she uses to describe the desire for her writing to be influenced by the stories of everyday people in Jamaica (as opposed to the refined version of history that is taught in schools). 

Over the years, she would rise in prominence to become Jamaica’s first female poet laureate, and the first black woman to receive the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

To exemplify this, she gives an example of the version of history that is taught about Jamaican national hero Paul Bogle – a narrative that mostly ends with the death by hanging of the preacher turned activist. In her interactions with the people of Stony Gut however, she learned that “anybody whose [sur]name was Bogle, in the wake of that [Morant Bay] uprising was hanged”. This part of the story, which was hitherto obscure, became the inspiration for one of her poems – ‘Name Change: Morant Bay Uprising’.

Lorna Goodison is a globally acclaimed writer who doubles as a literary ambassador for the people of Jamaica. As she admitted, she sees the world through the lens of her country and she writes even more about Jamaica when she is abroad. This interview is made up of 2 segments, both of which are now available online. So don’t forget to visit the channel for the remaining interview segment.

Special thanks to Lorna for the interview. To support us, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE our videos.

Happy watching, and see you again soon.

Special thanks to Lorna for the interview. To support us, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE our videos.