JAM | Mar 21, 2023

A look at the Poets Laureate of Jamaica

Candice Stewart

Candice Stewart / Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the previous article, we merely brushed the surface. Let’s read a little deeper as we highlight the post-Independence Poets Laureate.

Olive Senior (2021 – 2024)

Olive Senior is a prize-winning author of approximately 18 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honours being recognised as a writer, researcher, and literary luminary across the world. 

Senior conducts writing workshops, lectures, and readings at venues worldwide. She has contributed to Jamaican education processes, interacting with Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) students in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries through the University of the West Indies UWI), the Caribbean Examination Council and Bocas Lit Fest.

She demonstrates her love for teaching through her many appointments as lecturer and faculty member within tertiary institutions regionally and internationally.

Olive Senior

Some of her many awards include Writers Trust of Canada Matt Cohen Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2019; Norman Washington Manley Foundation Award for Excellence (preservation of cultural heritage – Jamaica) 2003; gold Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) in 2004; Humanities Scholar, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados 2005; Dana Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing and International Education, St. Lawrence University, Canton NY, 1994-5; Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council works-in-progress grants. 

Lorna Goodison (2017 – 2020)

She is the author of two prize-winning collections of short stories, her work has been translated into many languages, and she is a central figure at literary festivals throughout the world.

Goodison has published 12 internationally acclaimed collections of poetry, including ‘Tamarind Season’, ‘I Am Becoming My Mother’, ‘Heartease’, ‘To Us All Flowers Are Roses’, ‘Turn Thanks’, ‘Travelling Mercies’, ‘Controlling the Silver’, and ‘Supplying Salt and Light’. 

Lorna Goodison

Her paintings appear on the covers of several of her books. She has taught at the University of Toronto, the University of Miami, and is Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan, where she was the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afro American Studies.

Some of her awards include the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas, the gold Musgrave Medal from Jamaica, the Henry Russel Award, and the Shirley Verrett awards for exceptional creative work from the University of Michigan. Her work has been included in major anthologies and collections of contemporary poetry 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 the Longman Masters of British Literature.

Mervyn Morris (2014 – 2017)

Professor Mervyn Morris was announced as Jamaica’s first Poet Laureate since Independence. 

A Rhodes Scholar, Morris  was on the staff of the University of the West Indies from 1966 until 2002 when he retired as professor of creative writing and West Indian literature. 

Professor Mervyn Morris

His books of poems include ‘The Pond’, ‘Shadowboxing’, ‘Examination Centre’ (New Beacon Books, London), ‘Vestiges’ (a limited edition, Erlangen), and ‘On Holy Week’ (Dangaroo Press, Sydney). In 1976 the Institute of Jamaica awarded him a silver Musgrave Medal for poetry. He has given poetry readings in many countries and has conducted poetry workshops in the Caribbean, the United States of America (US), and the United Kingdom (UK).

Books he has edited include ‘Selected Poems’ by Louise Bennett, ‘It A Come’ by Michael Smith, and ‘After-image’ by Dennis Scott. He co-edited ‘Jamaica Woman’, an anthology of poems by Jamaican women who had not yet published individual collections, and ‘Voiceprint’, an anthology of oral and related poetry from the Caribbean.

This is part two of an informational three-part series highlighting the Poets Laureate of Jamaica. Parts one and three will be linked below.

The Poets Laureate of Jamaica

A look at the pre-Independence Poets Laureate of Jamaica

Read more:

World Poetry Day and literary devices used in poetry

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