Jamaica is a large island in the Caribbean Sea. It lies 630 kilometres north-east of mainland Central America. Its close neighbours are Haiti, to the east, and Cuba, to the north. There are mountains and plateaus to the interior and east of the island. It is surrounded by coastal plains, with sandy beaches and many natural bays.
Find out more about Jamaica.
The official language is English, however, the primary spoken language is an English-based creole called Jamaican Patois
2.961 million (2022)
11,000 square kilometres
Patricia Laird Grant (acting High Commissioner)
1962, following independence from Britain
Lorna Goodison was born in Jamaica, and has won numerous awards for her writing in both poetry and prose, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, the Henry Russel Award for Exceptional Creative Work from the University of Michigan, and one of Canada’s largest literary prizes, the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People (2007). Her work has been included in the major anthologies and collections of contemporary poetry over the past twenty-five years, such as the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, the HarperCollins World Reader, the Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, and Longman Masters of British Literature.
Along with her award winning memoir, she has published three collections of short stories (including By Love Possessed, 2011) and nine collections of poetry.
Her work has been translated into many languages, and she has been a central figure at literary festivals throughout the world. Lorna Goodison teaches at the University of Michigan, where she is the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afroamerican Studies. Goodison divides her time between Ann Arbor, Toronto, and the north coast of Jamaica.
Lorna Goodison was Poet Laureate of Jamaica from 2017 until 2020.
The Road of the Dread
That dey road no pave
like any other black-face road
it no have no definite color
and it fence two side
with live barbwire.
And no look fi no milepost
fi measure yu walking
and no tek no stone as
dead or familiar
for sometime you pass a ting
you know as . . . call it stone again
and is a snake ready fi squeeze yu
or is a dead man tek him
possessions tease yu.
Then the place dem yu feel
is resting place because time
before that yu welcome like rain,
go dey again?
bad dawg, bad face tun fi drive yu underground
wey yu no have no light fi walk
and yu find sey that many yu meet who sey
is only from dem mout dem talk.
One good ting though, that same treatment
mek yu walk untold distance
for to continue yu have fe walk far
away from the wicked.
Pan dis same road ya sista
sometime yu drink yu salt sweat fi water
for yu sure sey at least dat no pisen,
and bread? yu picture it and chew it accordingly
and some time yu surprise fi know how dat full
Some day no have no definite color
no beginning and no ending, it just name day
or night as how yu feel fi call it.
Den why I tread it brother?
well mek I tell yu bout the day dem
when the father send some little bird
that swallow flute fi trill me
and when him instruct the sun fi smile pan me first.
And the sky calm like sea when it sleep
and a breeze like a laugh follow mi.
Or the man find a stream that pure like baby mind
and the water ease down yu throat
and quiet yu inside.
And better still when yu meet another traveler
who have flour and yu have water and man and man
make bread together.
And dem time dey the road run straight and sure
like a young horse that cant tire
and yu catch a glimpse of the end
through the water in yu eye
I wont tell yu what I spy
but is fi dat alone I tread this road.
was a guinea woman
wide eyes turning
the corners of her face
could see behind her
her cheeks dusted with
a fine rash of jet-bead wars
that itched when the rain set up.
Great grandmother’s waistline
the spam of a headman’s hand
slender and tall like a cane stalk
with a guinea woman’s antelope-quick walk
and when she paused
her gaze would look to sea
her profile fine like some obverse impression
on a guinea coin from royal memory.
It seems her fate was anchored
in the unfathomable sea
for her great grandmother caught the eye of a sailor
whose ship sailed without him from Lucea harbour.
Great grandmother’s royal scent of
cinnamon and escallions
drew the sailor up the straits of Africa,
the evidence my blue-eyed grandmother
the first Mulatta
taken into backra’s household
and covered with his name.
They forbade great grandmother’s
guinea woman presence
they washed away her scent of
cinnamon and escallions
controlled the child’s antelope walk
and called her uprisings rebellions.
But, great grandmother
I see your features blood dark
in the children of each new
the high yellow brown
is darkening down.
it’s great grandmother’s turn.