At the heart of acclaimed poet Lorna Goodison’s seventh book of poetry – her first published in Canada – is music, moving from a slow ska, a hard rocksteady, and a sweetie-come-brush-me bossanova, to line and sight gratitude psalms, lionheart outlaw anthems, and Miles Davis, blown by the winds to a concert in Berlin. Many of the poems are about those not heard or less counted, those who live in places like the favelas of Rio or the Kingston slum called Moonlight City. Goodison chronicles how “from shameports we passed through whale-belly nights of no return”, or from prison through the fields of Tecumseh on a Greyhound bus to Detroit. And she journeys, as they must have, to hell, this time in a marvellous translation of the canto about Brunetto Latini from Dante’s Inferno, where she meets Mr. Brown, a Jamaican duppy conqueror from her own land of look behind. Set mainly in her native Jamaica but universal in its concerns, this book, rare and special, is the real thing.
POOR MRS. LOT
And so it was that Lot’s hard-ears wife
became a pillar of solid eye water.
Poor woman, frozen there crystalline
up from ground, salt stalagmite.
One last glance at what you left behind:
your mother’s cutlery, your yellow plates.
One more look behind to memorize
the lay, the order of the landscape.
The red water tank. The church spire.
One last look is enough to petrify.
Like you, she should have cried
as she left, not daring to look back,
savouring hard homeground with salt.
Excerpted from Travelling Mercies by Lorna Goodison. Copyright © 2001 by Lorna Goodison. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Lorna Goodison
Lorna Goodison is the author of eight books of poetry, including Travelling Mercies, Controlling the Silver, and Goldengrove: New and Selected Poems, two collections of short stories, and an acclaimed memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People which was a finalist for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and the Trillium Award, and won the B.C. Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. Goodison has received much international recognition for her fiction and poetry, including the Musgrave Gold Medal. Born in Jamaica, Goodison has taught at the University of Toronto and now teaches at the University of Michigan. She divides her time between Ann Arbor and Toronto.
“[Goodison is] among the finest poets writing today.”
–World Literature Today
“Goodison advances from strength to strength.…[She focuses] the diamond lens of her incantatory verse on the culture and people of her homeland in the Caribbean.…”
–Booklist (starred review)
“[Goodison’s work] continually surprises with its insistently elegant, spiritual core and crystalline intelligence.”