Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Editorial note
 Five poems by Lorna Goodison
 Interview with Lorna Goodison
 Goodison's rituals of redempti...
 No choice but to sing: Symbolic...
 Snow on the canefields
 To us all flowers are roses: Writing...
 From the depths of anxiety valley...
 Book reviews
 List of contributors
 Back Cover

Group Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Title: Sargasso
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00096005/00022
 Material Information
Title: Sargasso
Uniform Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Alternate Title: Sargazo
Abbreviated Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras P.R
Publication Date: 1984-
Copyright Date: 2001
Frequency: twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]
Subject: Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Puerto Rico
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Language: Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities: Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body: Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note: Title from cover.
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General Note: Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note: Has occasional special issues.
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Resource Identifier: oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
    Editorial note
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Five poems by Lorna Goodison
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Interview with Lorna Goodison
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
    Goodison's rituals of redemption
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
    No choice but to sing: Symbolic geographies and Lorna Goodison's wild women
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
    Snow on the canefields
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
    To us all flowers are roses: Writing ourselves into the literature of the Caribbean
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
    From the depths of anxiety valley to the pinnacle of Heartease mountain: Lorna Goodison's poetry of release
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
    Book reviews
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
    List of contributors
        Page 131
        Page 132
    Back Cover
        Page 133
        Page 134
Full Text






Edited by
Lowell Fiet

Concerning Lorna Goodison

Sargasso 2001: Concerning Lorna Goodison
Sargasso, a journal of Caribbean literature, language, and culture edited at
the University of Puerto Rico, publishes critical essays, interviews, book
reviews, and some poems and short stories. Sargasso particularly welcomes
material written by and/or about the people of the Caribbean region and its
diaspora. Essays and critical studies should conform to the style of the MLA
Handbook. Short stories should be no more than 2,500 words in length, and
poems should be kept to no more than twenty to thirty lines. All corre-
spondence must include S.A.S.E. For electronic submission, write to:

Mailing Address: Sargasso
P.O. Box 22831, UPR Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-2831

The Ph.D. Program in Caribbean Literature and Linguistics, Department of
English, College of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto
Rico publishes Sargasso. It also hosts and publishes the proceedings of the
annual Caribbean Doctoral Studies Symposium, an extension of the
Rockefeller Foundation-funded Caribbean 2000 Project, 1996-1999, as an
issue of Sargasso. The current volume includes the papers from the 2000
Symposium: "Women, Poetry, Performance: Concerning Lorna Goodison."

Lowell Fiet, Editor
Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Co-Editor
Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Co-Editor
Melanie Alfonso, Sally Everson, David Lizardi, Rafe Dalleo,
and Martin Duncan, Assistant Editors

Antonio Garcia Padilla, President of the University of Puerto Rico
George V. Hillyer, Chancellor, Rio Piedras Campus
Jose Luis Vega, Dean of Humanities

Cover: Deborah Hunt (Teatro de MAscaras): "Las Aventuras de los J6venes
Dioses" -photo D. Hunt; Back: D. Hunt -photo, Jose V61ez

Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the individual authors and are
not necessarily shared by Sargasso's Editorial Committee. All rights return to the
authors. Copies of Sargasso 2001, as well as previous issues, are on deposit in the
Library of Congress. Filed March 2002.

Table Contents

E d ito rial N o te ..................................................................... ................... v ii

Lorna Goodison:
Five Poems Translated into Spanish
(translated by Janette Becerra)................................ ......................

Lorna Goodison,
Interview by Lowell Fiet
(transcribed by David Lizardi) ................................. ................... 9

Edward Baugh
"Goodison's Rituals of Redem ption"................................................. 21

June Bobb
"'No Choice But to Sing': Symbolic Geographies and
Lorna Goodison's W ild Women" .............................. .................... 31

Loretta Collins
"Snow on the Canefields/ (the De-icing of a Canadian City):
Jamaican-Canadian Identity and Kinetic Language in ahdri
zhina mandiela's dark diaspora ...in dub: a dub theatre piece" ..... 39

Velma Pollard
"'To us all flowers are roses':
Writing ourselves into the literature of the Caribbean". ............. 65


Dannabang Kuwabong
"From the Depths of Anxiety Valley to the Pinnacle of
Heartease Mountain: Lorna Goodison's Poetry of Release" .......... 75


Denise L6pez Mazzeo
(Review of) Travelling Mercies by Lorna Goodison...................... 97

Sally Everson
(Review of) Turn Thanks by Lorna Goodison ............................... 101

Nalini Natarajan
(Review of) Eccentric Neighborhoods by Rosario Ferr6 ............... 108

Maria Cristina Rodriguez
(Review of) Michelle Cliff's Novels: Piecing the Tapestry
of Memory and History by Noraida Agosto.................................... 109

Loretta Collins
(Review of) Rastafari Women: Subordination in the
Midst of Liberation Theology by Obiagele Lake ............................. 113

Dannabang Kuwabong
(Review of) Elsewhere by Stewart Brown...................................... 118

David Lizardi
(Review of) Pressure Drop by Robert Buckeye ............................. 123

Maritza Reyes Laborde
(Review of) Echoes From Dusty Rivers by Dannabang Kuwabong ... 126

List of Contributors ................ ...................................................... 131

Editorial Note

Traditional criticism focuses on three major poets of the Anglophone
Caribbean: Nobel Prize-winning Derek Walcott of St. Lucia, the innova-
tive "sound" and "nation language" poet Kamau Brathwaite of Barba-
dos, and the recently deceased Guyanese poet Martin Carter. How-
ever, in the past decade, it has become obvious that the most impor-
tant new voices in Caribbean poetry belong to women. Lorna Goodison
has attained a critical stature that places her alongside Walcott and
Brathwaite as a major figure in contemporary Anglophone Caribbean
and World poetry.
I have read and taught Lorna Goodison's poetry in graduate and
undergraduate courses in Caribbean literature, language, and culture
for more than fifteen years. In 1985, I wrote her to request a poetry
contribution to our then fledgling journal Sargasso, and she graciously
replied with three poems. In the summer of 1987, I1 met her for the first
time after she had given an inspired reading at the Jamaica School of
Drama in Kingston. Of the numerous old and new poems read, it was
her performance of "Ceremony For The Banishment Of The King of
Swords" that has stayed with me as a most remarkable example of the
impact of the poet/"woman-of-words" on Caribbean culture and society.
Work on the current volume began in 1998. I was contacted by the
Education/Arts International funding consortium to recommend key-
note speakers from the Caribbean for their September 1998 arts and
performance encounter "In Roads/The Americas" in Miami. I recom-
mended Lorna Goodison. She accepted and closed the encounter's
proceedings with a stirring reading of new poems and, by request from
the audience, better known earlier poems.
Later in the day, Ms. Goodison and I spoke at length about the pos-
sibility of her participating as a guest speaker at the fifth annual Carib-
bean 2000 symposium scheduled for February 2000 that would even-
tually be subtitled "Concerning Lorna Goodison."


Special thanks to Ms. Goodison for submitting herself to the pro-
cess of attending and participating in a symposium devoted, mainly,
to her work and for granting the interview and the permission to pub-
lish the translations of her poems included in the volume. Thanks to
Deborah Hunt for her Theater of Masks performance, to Ted
Chamberlin, whose illuminating talk on orature and systems of orthog-
raphy could not be included here, and to all the participants and sup-
porters of the symposium.

Lowell Fiet

Five Poems by Lorna Goodison
Translated into Spanish

Madre, las grandes piedras tienen que moverse
(Mother the Great Stones Got to Move)

Madre, hay una piedra atravesada en el hueco de nuestra historic,
y esta sellada con cera de sangre.
En este hueco esta nuestro lado de la historic, cifras exactas,
conteos de cabezas, artefactos f6nebres, documents, listas, mapas
mostrdndonos el camino de ascenso entire estrellas; relicarios de lat6n
que contienen todas las textures de cabello.
Es la parte que nunca ha sido contada, algunos de nosotros
debemos contarla.

Madre, esta esa piedra en los corazones de algunas mujeres y hombres,
algo como un 6nix, en corte caboch6n,
que le siembra malos suefios a quien la lleva colgada. En nombre de
/ los pequefios
sofiadores de esta tierra, plagados de pesadillas, anhelantes
de suefios sanadores,
queremos que esa piedra se mueva.

En una noche como esta, madre, cuando un afio esta cediendole el paso
a otro, en una ceremonia concurrida por un espectdculo de estrellas
/ plateadas,
las madres vemos la luna, lactada, madre lactante tambien,
y pensamos en nuestros hijos y en las piedras que hay en su future
y queremos que estas piedras se muevan.

Porque el afio que se va lleg6 grueso al principio,
pero hacia la cosecha adelgaz6.


Y muchas comisuras de bocas se tornaron blancas,
y otro tipo de veneno, empolvado de blanco,
fue traido para reemplazar lo que era verde.
Y la muerte lo vende con una mano
y con la otra la muerte empufia una pistola,
entonces la muerte pone la foto de la muerte
en los peri6dicos y pregunta
",de d6nde viene toda esta muerte?"
Madre, las piedras son almohadas
porque los deambulantes duermen en sabanas de concrete.
La piedra da sabor al jab6n, la piedra es ahora care,
los duros de coraz6n dan a nuestros nifios
piedras para comer.

Madre, las grandes piedras que hay sobre la humanidad tienen que
/ moverse.
Hace diez mil afios ya que venimos observindolas
desde diversos puntos del universe.
Desde el instant de nuestro nacimiento como puntos de luz
en las eternas labores rizadas del cosmos.
Rueda lejos, piedra de polvos venenosos
que viniste a borrar la esperanza de nuestros j6venes.
Muevete, piedra de las vidas que engendramos y sacrificamos
para alimentar maquinarias econ6micas tribales.
Desde el otro lado del sendero a remontar la mafana,
espacio de la fuente de cuarzo rosado,
rebosante de anis y de agua de estrellas,
brillante, fragante para el future de nuestros hijos.
Madre, estas grandes piedras tienen que moverse.


Ella entra a las habitaciones
(She Walks into Rooms)

Ella entra a las habitaciones
y todos corren por toallas
dici6ndole jnifia, secate!
Y ella dice que no, que es s6lo luz
que juega en la tafeta de oleajes
de su traje.
Pero su anfitri6n le toc6 el rostro
y su mano volvi6 mojada.
A veces en las noches
ella tiene que cambiar las sabanas,
sus rosas favorites color marr6n
sobre enrejados lavanda
terminan empapadas,
y esa agua contiene sal,
que no le hace bien a las rosas.
El le dej6 toda esta agua
para que la retuviera en la garganta pirpura
de una flor,
se desbord6 por los suelos
y sus zapatos plateados navegaron en ellas
como barcas nocturnas.
El agua alis6 todos los rizos
de su pelo
que se escurre lacio hasta sus hombros,
donde las manos suyas esparcieron
tributarios de rios.
Al irse 61 le dijo
"Es tiempo de aprender a nadar".
Y dici6ndolo, parti6 a lugares secos
cargando plata en su cabello


y corrientes profundas en el mas leve
de sus movimientos.
Ella pudo haber muerto de frio esperando
en la humedad que 61 le dej6.
Pero se llen6 de misterios,
como el oc6ano.


Algunas de mis peores heridas
(Some of My Worst Wounds)

Algunas de mis peores heridas
han sanado en poemas.
Unas cuantas pufialadas
bien clavadas en la espalda
han liberado una canci6n
que estaba atrapada entire mis hombros.
Una caida
ha servido de palanca
para el ascenso de la lengua
y las traiciones apresuraron las palabras
de vuelta al hogar
para que estuvieran en sus marcas, listas, fuera,
otra vez.


Nosotras somos las mujeres
(We Are the Women)

Nosotras somos las mujeres
con sacos de tela
anclados muy hondo en nuestros pechos
en los que llevamos pactos de sangre
monedas de plata y dientes de ajo
y ap6crifas versions
de los secrets de la abuela.

Hemos hecho las paces
con el deseo:
si no nos mata,
viviremos con 61.

Nosotras ignoramos las promesas
de abundancia,
conocemos ese viejo sermon.

Nosotras somos quienes
siempre esperamos,
-palidas las comisuras de la boca-
en los sepulcros y los osarios
por los cuerpos de nuestros hombres,
esperando bajo el amo,
esperando bajo la mesa del amo,
a que goteen las migajas.

Nosotras somos las mujeres
que vedamos nuestros vientres
con tiras de luna llena,
nuestros nervios crispados
de tanto sufrimiento,
desgastados como centavos viejos.


Hemos enterrado nuestra esperanza
demasiado tiempo
como nuestro cord6n umbilical
estamos enraizando
en el lugar de entierro,
estamos destapando
nuestra esperanza.


Me estoy convirtiendo en mi madre
(I Am Becoming My Mother)

Mujer amarilla/morena
dedos siempre olorosos a cebollas

Mi madre siembra raras flores
y las riega con te
sus aguas amni6ticas cantaron como rios
mi madre es ahora yo

Mi madre tenia un traje de hilo
del color del cielo
y guardaba manteles
de encaje y damasco
para ocultar la verguienza de su mirada.

Me estoy convirtiendo en mi madre
mujer morena/amarilla
dedos siempre olorosos a cebollas.

All Translated by
Janette Becerra
University of Puerto Rico
Cayey and Rio Piedras Campuses

Interview with Lorna Goodison
(Recorded in Toronto in September 2000)

Lowell Fiet:
What were your expectations when you started writing? Did
you think that you were going to become a writer? What did
you hope to accomplish when you first began to write?

Lorna Goodison:
Well, absolutely nothing. That's a big truth, because my sister,
Barbara -I'm one of nine children. I'm eighth of nine children- and
the oldest in the family is a writer, and she works on the newspaper.
Early on I knew about the language of newspapers, and she always
told us she was waiting for the day she got her own by-line. We were
very excited about her by-line. So I always thought I was an artist from
the time I was very small. I would paint and I would draw. So I thought
I was a painter. And as happens, I think, in large families, you tend to
think that a profession is taken if one of your siblings has that profes-
sion. So I thought I couldn't be a writer because my sister is a writer.
Nobody told me this. That was what I thought. Also when I went to
school if I wrote something I was always ... I guess I always had some
gift as a writer because if I wrote a story or something in class the kids
would say, "You didn't write that. Your sister wrote it." [laughs] I
thought, "I'm not doing this. This has nothing to do with me." But in
spite of that I always wrote things, and I'm sure I remember when I
consciously wrote a poem as opposed to when I scribbled something
down. It was prompted by the appearance of the Jamaican landscape
after a particularly heavy shower of rain, and I noticed -I was maybe
nine, ten years old- I was very conscious of how refreshed and how
green and how renewed everything looked after the rain fell. So I wrote
this poem. It must have been a pretty terrible poem because it said,
you know ... very naive, very ... Well, I was nine years old.


Do you have it still?

Lorna Goodison-
Oh no! Thank goodness! It disappeared along with a lot of other things
I wrote. But it had a refrain about after the shower, after a shower of
rain or something. But definitely I was . you know ... the inspiration
came ... the point is that the first poem I ever wrote was about rain,
and I still write poems about rain. So I suspect it was something that
started and was going to arrive at some point to a logical conclusion.
Because I think I do write poems about regeneration. I'm very con-
cerned with themes of regeneration. So ... yes. I didn't think I was going
to be a writer, though. I thought I would just write that poem. But I
always wrote poems and then I hid them. I put them away very care-
fully. I once built a great funeral pyre in the garden. I was living at my
sister's house in Gordon Town then, and I built quite a nice pyre in the
back garden one day and I burnt them. I was fearing, and my fears
proved to be quite accurate, I feared that if I became a writer that I
would have a really troubled and strange [laughs] life, you know. Be-
cause by this time I guess I was reading a lot ... that's what I was -
what I wanted to do was read. That's all I ever really wanted to do. I
guess I became aware of some sort of danger that was lurking there for
me if I decided to be a writer. So I got rid of them. But they always came
back. And so, I started to publish my poems in the Sunday Gleaner in
Jamaica, but I published anonymously, under my initials.
The first time I wrote a poem and put my name under it was when I
went to Art School in New York, 1968-69. The School of the Art Stu-
dents League, it's a wonderful school. While I was there in New York I
was writing more than ever. I was at art school and I was just writing a
lot of poems. [laughs] I wrote a poem, which I think is in one of the
anthologies, called "New York is a Subway Stop," a very early poem.
When I finished that poem I looked at it and thought, "I don't really
care if anybody knows that I'm a poet. I'll just put my name on it, that's
all." Because up until that point ... I remember I got a lot telephone
calls from people saying, "Did you really write that? You did that?" ...
because nobody knew until then that I was writing. So, I don't know if
this is a very long answer to your question, but I didn't set out to be a
writer. I did not consciously decide to be a writer.


But by the time you put your name on that poem, could you say, right at
that point, 'Tm Lorna Goodison, the poet?"

Lorna Goodison-
No! It took me a long, long time to ever say that, to call myself... it
took me years before I said I am a poet. I don't know. I think I felt I had
to earn the right to say that. I don't make those claims lightly.

Is the decision to say that a kind of milestone? Is there something that
marks that...a certain poem, the publication of the first volume of po-
ems? What marks the decision to say that you earned that right?

Lorna Goodison-
Perhaps the publication of my first volume of poems. But I also think
-I remember very distinctly, the late Dennis Scott was wonderfully
helpful to me. Because he believed in my talent. He would come around,
wherever I was living then, and he would ask me, "Are you writing?"
and if I said no he would say, "Whatever else is going on you just have
to do this, remember you have to do it."
I think one poem in Tamarind Season called "Letter to My Love,"
where I think I started all this...sort of Greek myth, you know, I was
incorporating some Greek mythology into this poem. I remember con-
sciously saying, "No" -and I think Dennis agreed when I showed it to
him- "I don't want those people in here." Because at that point I felt
that we were very much able to stand on our own, that Jamaican im-
ages could stand on their own, that it didn't need to be always seen
through the lens of the Greek myths, or any other people. I felt we
were real by ourselves. I didn't need Venus' help or Aphrodite, or some-
body else. Well I think Pan is in it or something. I did let one go through,
instead of a whole bunch of them. So I think at that point I became
conscious of the power of the craft ... of knowing what you are doing
and being able to manipulate it, and do things, make things work as
you want as opposed to being at the mercy of them. So, I think around
that time I started thinking, "I do this. This is something that I do and
can do." Every now and again this happens to me, not a lot of times.
But once or twice I have been in the middle of a reading somewhere
-I remember once, maybe the first time I read in London and I was
reading seriously, and I remember right in the middle of the reading
standing up there and thinking, "Yes, this is what I do. I can do this."


And between that point and what's happening right now.. .Recently you
published a new volume, Turn Thanks [Urbana and Chicago: U Illinois
P, 1999], that also seems to mark a certain kind of milestone in your
career, perhaps a level of maturity in relation to craft that places you in a
different position. I don't know if that characterizes your own thought?
Have we left the period we can call early Goodison, now moved into
middle or...

Lorna Goodison-
Laaaate?! [laughter]

No, we're not anywhere close to that. Have you arrived at a new stage?

Lorna Goodison-
I hope so. I have just finished ... I'm just finishing a new collection
[Travelling Mercies. Toronto: McClelland &Stewart, 2001.]. I think I like
these poems, right now that I'm speaking to you I like them. Some-
times ... next week ... I won't like them, but I think I can see some ad-
vancement, some kind of movement, forward movement in them. Even
from Turn Thanks ... I think these poems have moved on some. I hope
they have because that is what I always wanted. Once I had decided to
surrender to it or to cooperate with it. That was it. I had to learn to
cooperate with this whole enterprise. [soft laughter] I spent a great
deal of time resisting it in my earlier years, and then one day I just
decided to cooperate with it: "O.K. Whatever. I'll go with you. What
you want, I'll just do." [laughs]

It's easier to cooperate with it now?

Lorna Goodison-
Oh yes. Oh yes. It is now my friend. It started off as something that
was very terrifying and frightening for me, but became my friend or we
became friends ... but yeah, I always hoped that was part of the pact
that poetry made with me and I with it, and that I would improve, that
the work would show improvement and that I would grow and it would
grow. We would both grow. I was very concerned with that from the
very beginning. I really had a kind of fear that I might not ... I might just
do something and then keep on doing the same thing. I don't necessar-
ily want to write about different things, but I liked sort of ... a friend of
mine once said he wished that for me: "I hope your course is enlarged.
That you do what you do but that it gets wider and deeper."


That's true.

Lorna Goodison-
Well, I'm hoping that is what's happening.

A technical question. A question about craft. We talked about this a little
bit earlier, about the whole notion of orality and performance and the
process of writing itself Do you, while writing, speak the poems out loud
as you write? Do you beat them out? Do you work meter in that way? Do
you use voice in the process of composition?

Lorna Goodison-
Yes, but very much in my head. I read them out later. But ... one of
the things I'm very good at -I don't say this a lot about things. I don't
have a whole lot of areas in which I say, "I'm very good at this."- I
know like a million songs, for some reason. I just know the words of
hundreds ... I know a lot of songs, the lyrics to a lot of songs. I think
that in some bizarre way it helps me because I have in my head, at any
given time [laughs] the lyrics to any number of, I think, fine songs. So I
think I have a kind of foundation of music going on there all the time.
So, when I work the lines they're always, I think -1 always, you know,
I think I wanted to be a singer or some sort of musician. So the lines are
very closely allied to my idea of writing music or making music. So if
they don't sound musical I work on them and work on them until they
become as musical as I want or if I can't I discard them. So, I don't
pound beats in my head. I don't count all the beats, but I'm very con-
scious that if it doesn't sound musical to my ear ... I have some sort of
way of measuring whether it's musical or not, some kind of bizarre
litmus test takes place in the mind of the writer. You know how
Hemingway said that every good writer has to have a crap detector;
well, I have to have that and a music detector. [laughs]

Performance is a word that gets thrown around a lot in contemporary
criticism. Do you consider yourself a "performance" poet? Or are you a
poet who reads your work for audiences, is that performance? Does that
reading then help you reflect on those poems, perhaps help you revise
those poems?

Lorna Goodison-
Actually, I consider myself less and less a performer. I never thought of
myself solely as a performer, because if it doesn't work on the page for


me it doesn't work. And then the reading is an additional dimension. In
the earlier poems maybe I didn't pay as much attention to that as I
could have. But the more I write the more I want it to work on all levels.
But I do like to read and that sometimes when I read -and it's true,
what you said is very true- I will read something and it comes off the
page and it exists in another way, in another sphere, and suddenly I
hear what I should do with the thing on the page. I have to tweak it
somewhere, turn it another way because I prefer what happens when I
read it out loud. But I don't know if I'm a performance poet. I think
there'll be a day when I won't read. So, I'm just hoping to write poems
that no matter what they'll still be poems. [laughs]

Is that acceptable in a Caribbean context, the notion of a poet who does
not read as well as write for an audience?

Lorna Goodison-
You know what I love? I love when kids read my poems. I hear it
when they say it and it makes me feel so happy because I just want
them ... There are poems in Turn Thanks -that long elegy for my
mother- and the first time I read that poem I was not in Jamaica, I was
somewhere else, but there were some Jamaicans in the audience and I
remember a woman, she came up to me and said, "Were you aware
when you were doing that that you were doing it for all of us? In a
sense it was about your mother, but it wasn't really about your mother.
That you were giving us a format for how to bury people, our moth-
ers." I don't think about things like that. That's a huge thing to say. But,
if what that woman said is true at all, in that people have said me, "I've
used your poem at my mother's funeral, at my brother's wedding."
Then good! That's what should happen. They shouldn't wait for my
voice to activate them, to make them into something.

You're currently living outside of Jamaica. Is Jamaica still home?

Lorna Goodison-
This is September. I've been, [starts laughing] I've been in Jamaica
four times since January. [intense laughter] I just came back from a
whole month . Ted and I just came back from a whole month in
Jamaica. We had a really nice month in Jamaica. [Voice lowers, speak-
ing softly] I can't do anything about Jamaica. Jamaica ... is just where I
live. I live there all the time. No matter where I am, I live there. [Normal


tone] But, having said that, I'm also becoming a little more conscious
of the need to be gracious, to acknowledge the gifts and the places of
... you know, the watering places which have been provided for me in
other countries. I would have to say that as much as I love Jamaica,
and I don't have to keep saying how much I love Jamaica, but there
have been other places on this planet which have been very good to
me. And I should probably at this stage of my life acknowledge that
I've been able to accomplish something outside of Jamaica. Much of
my writing now, my later writing, has taken place outside of Jamaica.

Is it as easy to write here in Toronto, or in Michigan when you lived
there? Is the writing, the writing process attached to a place?

Lorna Goodison-
No. It hasn't been that way. One of the hazards of being in Jamaica is
that I don't do very much work. I mean, in Jamaica I have friends ... I
have six brothers and two sisters. I have millions of ... I have a lot of
attachments. So, in Jamaica I just tend not to do a lot of work. [laughs]
But when I'm away, there's a sort of strict routine I hold to when I'm
teaching and somehow that sort of points me in the right direction. So
I work and I work and I write and I write because I want to remember
Jamaica, so I have to write. I've done a lot of writing since I've been
here in Toronto. I'm finishing this book of poems. I think I can write
because the distance is good. It's not too far removed, maybe like Michi-
gan is. But here I have access to Jamaican food. I have Jamaican friends
here, and Miss Lou [Louise Bennett] is here. We talk a lot.

You do?

Lorna Goodison-
Oh yes! As a matter of fact she has a birthday ... she was 81 this
week. She's having people around this evening so we were thinking
that if you guys were free we would have taken you over there.

And the new book, you've talked about it a couple of times already. Is
there anything else you want to say about it?

Lorna Goodison-
It has a lot to do with travelling. Travelling in all kinds of ways. It
talks about my own travels. It talks about people in the African diaspora
travelling. It talks about spiritual travelling, internal, it just talks about


going ... this sort of great movement. I get very caught up in some of
those poems. That's what it's about. Right now, I quite like them. I'm
pretty much finished with it. I'm sort of putting the finishing touches
to it. But it seems to me that ... at some point in my life I started mov-
ing. I was sort of planted in Jamaica for long while, and then at some
stage I started moving and haven't stopped moving since then. So, it's
a bit natural that the poems would have to be about ... so much of my
life has been about moving.

You talked about being a painter. You talked about wanting to be a singer,
of having music and lyrics in your head. Are there links between paint-
ing, music, and poetry that might lead you in new directions?

Lorna Goodison-
I have maybe three or four poems for my next book, the book after
the one I'm finishing. Because that always happens. I'm very conscious
of when a group of poems comes together, and then after that other
things start happening. I think that is where I'm headed next.
The music is very, very important in these new poems. It's also a
kind of response, a kind of pushing back against a strange modern
notion that says that music and poetry don't belong together. A lot of
modern poets to me just sound like some guy talking to me, and if I'm
not particularly interested in what he has to say then I don't know if
it's a poem. I am very perverse that way. My response is that my po-
ems have to become more musical. [laughter] Does that make sense?

Technically my questions are over, we've covered the bases, but let me
see ifl can provoke responses on a couple of other issues. [Lorna laughs]
It seems you probably do not have too much time for the theorists, the
theoretical in general, and perhaps particularly postcolonial theory. That's
the sense I got from the discussions we had in Puerto Rico last February.
Yet, there's more theory being published now, particularly in the Carib-
bean and concerning Caribbean writing. Is there any point where you see
the theoretical positions on Caribbean literature relating to your work?

Lorna Goodison-
I'm always grateful for any kind of enlightenment. I think a good lit-
erary critic does that. They do just that. They show me things about
my work I can't possibly see. I'm too close to it, or whatever, I can't see
them. I think if there was more theory that did that, it helps enlighten
me, or other people about the writing itself. But some of it, I don't


know ... the thing is I'm open. I'm not going to say I don't want to have
anything to do with theory because that is not true. I welcome any
kind of theory that seeks to do what any good literary critic does, which
is illuminate the text, show me what is going on here, make connec-
tions for me, lead me to other things. Maybe that doesn't happen
anymore, I don't know, I really don't know. [laughter] One of the things
I think ... I really feel -I said this to you earlier- I always felt that we
were enough. What we had was enough. Not in any narrow sense that
we don't need anything from outside. That's not what I'm saying. I never
took to the idea that we needed to always be attached to some greater
power in order to make ourselves into something. We didn't need to all
be seen through the African lens, the European lens, or anything else.
I draw on these things constantly, but I also think there are times when
I just want to talk about people in the Caribbean as people in the Car-
ibbean in their own right.
In some of the poems in the book before Turn Thanks, To Us All
Flowers are Roses, that is what I was trying to do very much there.
There's a cycle of poems in the beginning about Jamaican street peo-
ple. I always felt that they were as important to me as any ... you know
Wordsworth had a whole series of poems about street people of his
time. I didn't want to borrow Wordsworth's street people. I felt that
Elephant was every bit as valid as ... you know ... "The Leech Gath-
erer." But I didn't set out consciously to do that. I only set out to do
that because I thought somebody should talk about these people.
I'll tell you something, maybe I'm going to write a poem about this.
When we were in Kingston last month, we were staying right down-
town in Kingston, Ocean Boulevard, which is very interesting, strange
sometimes, frightening thing. We went out one night and came back in,
and there is a woman who feeds the dogs of Kingston. She's a Euro-
pean woman who lives down there. She's from Eastern Europe some-
where. She goes out late at night with this big thing of dog food and
feeds all the starving dogs of Kingston. Now, this is just so wonderful
for me. I'm saying that I come from a place that is so rich and there are
characters and there are myths being made every day. That is what I
want to do. I want to capture them in words. Does that make any sense?

Perfect sense. Just one last question. What do you say or what can you
say to the young people who are writing or starting to write poetry in a
world in which, for the most part, the audience for poetry seems to be the
diminished and poetry seems to have less of a place in society than other
literary or artistic forms. What can you say to young poets?


Lorna Goodison-
Well, luckily, the University of Miami used to have a writing pro-
gram, a summer writing program. I did some teaching there and also I
did some teaching a couple of summers ago to young West Indian writ-
ers at Cave Hill [Barbados]. People who are writing now are a little
more fortunate than [earlier writers].
In some ways writing is a calling, it's a kind of vocation. I don't want
to get too dramatic here and say it's holy, but I think so. In some ways,
if you're called to write, if you're moved to write at all, then under-
stand that there is something a little larger than you or maybe really,
really larger [laughs] than you, if you are unlucky or lucky. So I go back
to what I said. You have to cooperate with it, and by that I mean trust
this gift you have been given. I think ... I believe this, I think there are
things which come with it, a sort of corollary to the gift, and that some-
how if you're good and doing what you're supposed to do, ways open
for you that you can't foresee. You shouldn't be doing this because
you think, "I want to get rich and am going to get a big prize." I don't
think that should be the driving force. In some ways, what I'm trying to
say is that at some point, maybe earlier on, the work itself should be
the reward. Maybe this is called a consolation, but it's true. For a long
time, certainly for me, the work was the reward. I had no other reward
but the work: the joy of crafting a poem, the joy of receiving the inspi-
ration for a poem, the joy of writing it down and saying, "Jesus, where
did that come from." I really ... at times, I stepped back from some
poems and thought, "I know there's a God because I could not have
done that." Those are joys which nobody can pay you for. So, in the
beginning you should never lose that. I would say if I had a lot of money,
if I really came into a lot of money, one of the first things I would do is
to ... there should be a really good prize, a couple of really good prizes
for young West Indian writers. There should be a really good publica-
tion out of the Caribbean where people could have their work
showcased. There are all kinds of good publications, but you know
what I mean something that is equivalent to the best anywhere. What
I would like for us to do is begin to think in these terms and maybe if
enough of us think in these terms we could come together and start
creating these opportunities, these openings for younger writers to
showcase their work in a really big way.
Until then, I would say that ... one of my first publications was cranked
out on a Gestetner machine by a friend of mine named Marie Francis. I
put them in a brown paper envelope, stuck a drawing of mine on it,


and sold them for something like $10 [Jamaican]. I'm glad I did it. It
was like a kind of "yogurt" culture for a book. [laughs] But now it's
easier. You have opportunities to get published, but I would tell the
young people do those things. Not the Gestetner machine. Now you
have computers. Get them out. Don't wait until you have a big publish-
ing contract, just self-start. Sell them in the plaza. I think it's up to the
poets of our age to get people more sensitized to the role of poetry in
their lives. I certainly heard that in Jamaica in the past, and I'm sure it
happened all over the Caribbean. Slim and Sam and other troubadours
used to print their songs and sell them in the streets for a penny a
sheet or something. I don't think poets should feel bad about selling
their poems in the plaza, I don't think they should.
I don't like the idea of this sort of according oneself some great spe-
cial-ness. I really resist that idea a lot: that I'm so special that my poems
can only be read in special places or that only I can do ... I don't know
what. I think of my poetry as something that's a part of my life, like my
cooking, my looking after my son, my housework. When I'm doing some-
thing else I'm trying to write a poem too. So it's all sort of an integrated
pattern that I want to create in my life. It's not some rare thing that hap-
pens and I separate from the earth and walk to Mount Olympus.
Whenever you get the chance, help the people around you by sharing
these poems with them. They're a kind of food, a kind of nourishment.
So give them away. I've been teaching at the University of Michigan for a
while and I've been speaking to people who come out at the end of their
M.F.A. degree, and they've done writing, really amazing. They've been
given this wonderful, rarified atmosphere in which they function as po-
ets for several years. At the end of it they say, "What am I to do? I'm to
get my book published and then to ...?" Sometimes that might not hap-
pen right away. I say to them things like, "Where do you live? There's a
library there, right? Go to the library and offer to read for the kids who
come in on a Saturday." Read wherever there's any kind of opening,
[laughing] a window of opportunity as they say these days. One of the
things I do when I'm in Jamaica now is that I read to kids in libraries in
different parts of Jamaica. Sometimes they don't listen. They make a lot
of noise. But I think I have to do that. So I end up in libraries all over
strange little places in Jamaica reading these poems to kids. That's as
much a part of what I do as reading in any great intellectual center.

Interview transcribed by
David Lizardi
University of Puerto Rico Cayey and Rio Piedras Campuses

Goodison's Rituals of Redemption

Edward Baugh*

his essay looks at one significant feature in the genetic blue

print of Lorna Goodison's creative imagination, observing how
it has been declaring itself, and considering its place in her po-
etic personality as a whole. Ritual, and more particularly what I call
ritual of redemption, has been an increasingly remarkable principle of
the informing and unfolding of her work. It has asserted itself most
pervasively in her latest collection, Turn Thanks (Urbana & Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1999).
I take as matrix for this exploration the opening poem of Turn Thanks,
"After the Green Gown of My Mother Gone Down." It is the lead poem,
so to speak, in the first section of the book, the section entitled "My
Mother's Sea Chanty," an elegiac sequence commemorating the life of
her now-dead mother. Some of these poems are not specifically about
her mother, but about other women-elders of her mother's immediate
circle. These poems build on, play variations on the line, the lineage of
Goodison's "mother poems" or matrix poems, which began with the
celebrated "For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength)" (Tama-
rind Season, 1980) and include the title poem of her second collection,
I Am Becoming My Mother (1986). If we take a line through these to
"After the Green Gown," we may observe a movement from an "easy,"
naturalistic, narrative-evocative mode, to a mode more spare, more
taut, more symbolic, more "wrought," more ritualistic, less autobio-
graphically particular. In tracing the trajectory of Goodison's work, a
small but instructive exercise would be to compare the early poem
"On Houses" (Tamarind Season) with the twenty-years-later poem of
the same title in Turn Thanks.

*University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica


We may remark, in passing, on Goodison's use of the word chanty
(which may also be spelt "shanty") in the title of the section, which is
also the title of the second poem. "Chanty" suggests "chant" (and this
word occurs in the poem) or ritualistic song, a sea chanty being a sail-
or's work-song, with solo and chorus, call and response. In "My Moth-
er's Sea Chanty," the poet imagines herself "washing/[her] mother's
body in the night sea" (6). This washing is a ritual act of cleansing or
purification, which also occurs in "When The Green Gown." There, al-
though the sea does not actually figure, there are cleansing waters

And the Blue Mountains will open to her
to seal her corporeal self in.
From the ancient vault
that is her lapis lazuli heart
the headwaters of all our rivers spring.
Headwaters, wash away the embalmer's myrrh resin
the dredging of white powder caking her cold limbs.
It is as if the mother's body, as it is lowered into the earth in its green
gown, is being immersed (back) into the water of life. This lustral wash-
ing is a necessary stage in the ritual process of redemption.
The idea of a ritualistic cleansing or purgation by water was incipi-
ent in a poem like "Farewell Our Trilogy," in the image of the dead cat,
relic and symbol of a dead love-relationship, thrown into the dry river-
bed, being washed out to sea by a welcome downpour (IAm Becoming
My Mother, 26). The idea of water as symbolic blessing and release
from spiritual, emotional and creative drought was clear enough in
such poems as "'Mine, 0 Thou Lord of Life, Send My Roots Rain'" and
"Keith Jarrett Rainmaker" (IAm Becoming My Mother, 32 and 33). In
Turn Thanks these possibilities take on a fully articulated ritualistic
dimension, notably, for instance, in "Turn Thanks to Grandmother

My grandmother Hannah aspired to sanctity
through the domestic vocation of laundering
the used, soiled vestments of the clergy
into immaculate and unearthly brightness.


A servant, so to speak, of clergymen, she performed a "cleansing serv-
ice," and, through "the cleansing power / in her hands," she "experi-
enced within / something like the redemption in her washing" (14).
The link between the concepts of redemption and ritual is made
explicit early in "When The Green Gown," which begins like this:

August, her large heart slows down then stops.
Fall now, and trees flame, catch a fire and riot

last leaves in scarlet and gold fever burning.
Remember when you heard Bob Marley hymn

"Redemption Song," and from his tone and timbre
you sensed him travelling?"

The allusion to Marley's "Redemption Song," the people's hymn, so
to speak, exemplifies the Goodison way in which the personal widens
into and resonates with the communal-historical, in this case with all
that Marley's song speaks out of, and to, and for.
The redemption of Marley's song merges, in turn, with the universal
resonance of the seasons, the turning of time, Nature's cycle of death
and renewal. After her mother's death and burial, the poet returns to
North America in the fall of the year. But this fall is "flame time," when
"trees flame, catch a fire, and riot" (3). The green of the leaves, turning
"scarlet and gold" as they go down, is the green, the "deep green gown"
in which the mother (in the poet's imagination) is dressed for going
down into the earth. So, by this green the mother becomes elemental.
Autumn's "riot of colour" also images and fuses the individual re-
sistance of life, all life, against going down into death, and the people's,
black people's resistance to oppression. This redemptive capacity for
rebellion and for "flaming out" in all senses is also alive in another
Marley allusion, the one in "catch a fire," which is the title of one of his
songs and albums. In addition, through this play of images, the poet
closes the grieving distance between herself, writing from a temperate
northern location in fall, and the tropical home-place of her mother's
life and dying.
The poet says that when she first heard "Redemption Song," she
had sensed that Marley was "travelling," i.e. dying. Here is another
pervasive Goodison trope. Marley's travelling, like her mother's, is
another variation on all "travelling," all the journeys that the people,


her people, have had to make journeys of diaspora, escape, survival,
quest. We think, for example, of "The Road of the Dread" (Tamarind
Season), "For Rosa Parks" (I Am Becoming My Mother), "Heartease I"
(Heartease). And there are other rewarding lines of linkage in
Goodison's work, for which the Marley allusions in "The Green Gown
of My Mother" may serve as a convenient point of departure. For in-
stance, there is the deep involvement of Goodison's verse with music,
and more particularly Black music, and most particularly Jamaican
popular or "roots" music. The link with music will lead us inevitably to
Goodison's African connection, which is perhaps nowhere more freely
articulated than in Turn Thanks, as in "Africa on My Mind Today," and
"My Father's Country," and "Turn Thanks to Miss Mirry."
"The Green Gown of My Mother," as indeed all of Turn Thanks, also
extends Goodison's linguistic genius for playing along and with the
registers between Standard English [SE] and Jamaican Creole [JC]. For
example, in the line "after the green gown of my mother gone down,"
we may read both SE elided "my mother [who has] gone down," and JC
perfect tense "my mother's] gown [has] gone down." In "when you
heard Bob Marley hymn / 'Redemption Song' ...," we may hear "hymn"
as SE verb, with "Redemption Song" as its object, and "hymn" as noun,
in the JC formulation in which "Bob Marley" is possessive ("Bob
Marley['s] hymn"), with "Redemption Song" being in apposition to
"hymn." We may also hear "hymn" as the JC intensifying / demonstra-
tive suffix "him" "Bob Marley-him,"' which then also becomes pos-
sessive ("Bob Marley-his"). A fine example of this linguistic resource-
fulness occurs in the opening stanza of "Country, Sligoville," in the ef-
fect of a single word, "country:" "I arise and go with William Butler
Yeats/to country, Sligoville/in the shamrock green hills of St
Catherine"(47). The expression "go to country" is pure Jamaican, mean-
ing "go to the countryside," "go out of town," and amusingly and unex-
pectedly disturbs the comfortable, assured recognition of the language
of Yeats's "Lake Isle of Innisfree" into which the reader would have
already settled.
But to return to ritual and redemption: as we have noticed, there is
the ritualistic in the idea of the seasons and the cycle of life and death,
and in the identification of "Redemption Song" as hymn. There is ritual
also in the climactic close-that-resists-closure, at the end of the first

'I am grateful to Velma Pollard for calling my attention to this meaning.


movement, which pronounces the ceremonial, holy preparation and
committal of the mother's body to earth:

Dress my mother's body in a deep green gown.
Catch a fire and let fall and flame time come
after the green gown of my mother gone down.

This idea is repeated, with variation, in the second movement:

Return her ripe body clean
to fallow the earth.
Her eyes to become brown agate stones.
From her forehead let there dawn
bright mornings.

The line "Her eyes to become brown agate stones" is enhanced by the
suggestion of Shakespeare's "Those are pearls that were his eyes" and
the idea of the "sea change into something rich and strange" (The Tem-
pest) the metamorphic agency of ritual.
The second movement begins with an utterance of kinship ritual as
part of the larger ritual process of the poem, and invocation of the
spirits of ancestors and kin:

We laid her down, full of days,
chant griot from the book of life,
summon her kin from the long-
lived line of David and Margaret.
Come Cleodine, Albertha,
Flavius, Edmund, Howard and Rose,
Marcus her husband gone before
come and walk Dear Doris home.

There had been a similarly invocatory piece of kinship ritual in section
II of "Songs for My Son," when the poet called on the spirits of the
ancestors, by name, to "gather on the banks of the family river" to
witness and bless the birth of her son (I Am Becoming My Mother,
17-18). The presence and witness of family were also important in
"Wedding In Hanover," in which the virgin bride is represented as


the central and implicitly sacrificial figure in what is really a primor-
dial fertility ritual.
"After the Green Gown," then, performs a ritual; it does not so much
provide information as perform an action. In the terminology of speech-
act theory, it is not so much a constative as a performative utterance.
The poem's ritualistic mode is underscored by the fact that it ends
with a stanza, a sort of postscript, which is in an entirely contrasting
mode, intimate and "chatty:"

Mama, Aunt Ann says
that she saw Aunt Rose
come out of an orchard
red with ripe fruit
and called out laughing to you.
And that you scaled the wall
the two young girls
scampering barefoot among
the lush fruit groves.

Still, the imagery of children scampering barefoot among lush fruit
groves, the imagery of ascent and of innocence amid natural abun-
dance, has a transcendental, visionary, Blakean simplicity about it that
goes beyond the purely naturalistic and sustains the promise of the
redemptive in the ritualistic.
The redemption theme is explicitly stated in other poems in Turn
Thanks, and in each instance redemption is apprehended and figured
in terms of ritual action. We have already noted "Turn Thanks to Grand-
mother Hannah." There is also, for example, "To Become Green and
Young Again," a poem about the New Year's Eve ritual of women throw-
ing flowers into the sea on the beach in Rio de Janeiro:"

There is a spirit nation
under the ocean. May its citizens plead
for our recovery and redemption.

There is the invocation of ancestors here too, as part of the ritual of
redemption, as well as the deep resonance of the allusion to the Afri-
can slaves who were drowned, or whose corpses were tossed over-
board in the Middle Passage.


Another notable instance of the redemption theme enacted in the proc-
ess of ritual is "The Domestic Science of Sunday Dinner," which celebrates
"that taste/of redeemed and rescued richness" (rescued, that is, from the
"near-burned state") of perfectly, lovingly cooked rice-and-peas. We note
the anagrammatic serendipity of how "state" becomes "taste." The
achievement of "The Domestic Science of Sunday Dinner" is put into
perspective by the fact that it develops out of a passage in "Nayga
Bikkle," a poem in To Us, All Flowers Are Roses, the volume immedi-
ately preceding Turn Thanks. "Nayga Bikkle" ("nigger food/victuals") is
an encomium to Jamaican "roots" food and cooking, the food of African
slaves and their descendants. The list must include rice-and-peas:

Nayga Bikkle o, the integration of rice and peas,

red peas and rice or the peas of the congo that in the course of their
were transformed into gungoo.

The pretty little black and white black-eyed peas.
As a matter of fact, we call all beans peas.
It's a generic tribute to the protein filled legume

that is so much a foundation stone in the architecture of nayga bikkle.
All peas come together with rice joined by the ubiquitous kindness of coconut
which gives to food a texture, like silk upon the tongue.

In the poem as a whole, it is the sensuous deliciousness (gustatory,
olfactory and tactile) of the foods that chiefly exercises the poet's gift
of evocation. There is also the reinforcing irony, in the story of how
the massa himself surreptitiously eats and delights in "nayga bikkle."
The open, joyful celebration of "Coarse Cuisine," as massa would call
it, is in itself a significant social statement. At the very end of the poem
though, there is, in the biblical language of exhortation, thanksgiving
and praise, the merest suggestion of the possibility of a gathering-up
of the poem into a spiritual transformation and elevation through ritual:

Behold how good and pleasant it is to taste the food
the bounty born of the plenty of our poverty.
The nayga bikkle of this land, season strong
you smell we hand?


"The Domestic Science of Sunday Dinner" is a more layered, more
faceted poem than "Nayga Bikkle," richer fare, and the difference has
something to do with the ritualistic dimension of the former, which is
a matter as much of content as of form. At the most basic level, "The
Domestic Science of Sunday Dinner" is a recipe, a precisely detailed
recipe for rice-and-peas, a mandatory part of Jamaican Sunday dinner
(which is "really" lunch). And even at this level it is remarkable, per-
haps even unique, a poem that is a recipe, a recipe that works. One can
follow it and produce the required dish.
One can go further, too, and say that it is an amusing, funny poem
about cooking rice-and-peas, if only by virtue of seeming to take so
seriously, but with what may seem like mock seriousness, so common-
place and alimentary a thing as rice-and-peas. The poem itself seems
to be amused at what it is doing, at the soft overlay of humour and the
gentle, or perhaps not-so-gentle, irony with which it is lightened and
spiced. The irony is in the very title. To call the cooking of rice-and-
peas a science would seem to lend it a spurious status and academic
aura. "Domestic science" sounds impressive, but the term is itself the
butt of irony here. The term was invented to elevate the humble, house-
wifely skills that girls are taught in schools to the status of an aca-
demic discipline; but the very need for the term exposes its euphemis-
tic motive and ensures the lowly status of what it designates. In the
popular mind, and however different the actuality may be, boys do
science, while girls do domestic science.
In the final irony, though, a solemn irony, the cooking of rice and
peas achieves even higher seriousness than the term "domestic sci-
ence" sought, however tongue-in-cheek, to give it. By the metamor-
phosis which the poem enacts, the taken-for-granted routine of cook-
ing Sunday rice-and-peas becomes a reverential ritual, albeit lightened
by its leaven of humour. Ritual is a transformative process. The articu-
lation of a recipe becomes the enactment of a ritual that subsumes the
rituals of love and death. The poem is in its way a continuation of
Goodison's elegy for her mother, a celebration of the nurturing, crea-
tive love that her mother generated. The preparation of the dish is
transfigured by the love which drives it. The love in turn expresses
and completes itself in the preparation of the dish and in the delight
which it engenders in those who taste it. To adapt Yeats's line from
"Among School Children," "How can we tell the cooking from the cook?"
The end result of this enactment, this ceremony of food, is a "com-
ing together:" "they come together, this integration / of rice and peas


steamed in coconut milk." (10) Ritual is the enactment of coming-to-
gether, an expression of community, in which the purely individualis-
tic is submerged. The coming-together of rice, peas and coconut milk
is one with the coming together, the integration of memory and dream,
memory and desire, in the poem, the integration of the poet's celebra-
tion of life with her acceptance of death and lament for the dying.
The ritualistic effect is enhanced by the careful, reverential placing
of each action in the process of preparing the rice-and-peas. Further-
more, there is ritual within ritual: specific aspects and procedures of
redemptive ritual are observed in the imagery when the father breaks
open the coconut: chalice, libation, dipping the "jagged piece of coco-
nut into sugar" (the wafer-host into the wine) (9) and then eating it. All
of these images suggest the Eucharist, and the breaking open of the
coconut is represented as a sacrificial beheading. Further, while the
rice-and-peas is being cooked, "the meat has been roasting, /issuing
from its side bloody gravy juices" (10), recalling Christ's sacrificial
blood-letting at His crucifixion. To single out each of these symbolic
images pointedly may be to make them seem too willed, too self-re-
garding, and perhaps the poet is indeed taking a risk, but in context
they flow into one another easily, and any threat of too-heavy earnest-
ness is mitigated by the good-natured sense of loving amusement at
the performance.
Through the transformative effect of ritual, Goodison captures the
transcendent in the ordinary, the numinous in the quotidian. In "Vin-
cent and the Orient," another poem in Turn Thanks, she says that the
paintings of Vincent Van Gogh which are dearest to her are "those in
which familiar things / turn transcendent," and she praises:

... the glory of his gift
for transforming elementary things

through patience and careful seeing
past all obvious appearances
down to where the whirling spirits
flash primal pigments, creating
images, sensuous, duende, amazing.

This is precisely the gift that comes to the fore in Turn Thanks.
Goodison had always excelled at recording the "thingness" of the world,
the sensuous particularity of experience. In some of the Heartease


(1988) poems, putting the "Wild Woman" behind her, she went beyond
this sensuous, material, circumstantial therenesss" of things and en-
tered a world of the transcendental. This was a mystical realm, evoked
in the language of pure symbol and working through ritualistic modes
of invocation, incantation and benediction, as in the opening poem of
Heartease, with which she has often given a definitively ritualistic qual-
ity to her readings, "I Shall Light A Candle to Understanding in Thine
Heart Which Shall Not Be Put Out." Heartease was a place not only of
rest and release and harmony with self and world, but also a visionary
condition, expressing itself through the iconography of mysticism, light
and precious stones. Significantly now, in Turn Thanks, the poet notes
that Van Gogh's transcendental visions are instinct with the "sensu-
ous," and she is able to reaffirm her delight in elementary and familiar
things, in the sensuous presence of things-in-the world, but seeing them
with a vision that "turns" or transforms them into something beyond
the mundane.
Ritual purifies the circumstantial and gathers up contingencies, like
the contingency of rice-and-peas, into "the artifice of eternity," to bor-
row Yeats's phrase. Through the poet's ritualising performances, i.e.
her poems, the people's fragmentation and dispersal, their "wounds
and losses," are wrought into community, a ritual of release and grace
and light "all things come together."

"No Choice But To Sing": Symbolic Geographies
and Lorna Goodison's Wild Women

June Bobb*

In his Nobel acceptance speech, "The Antilles: Fragments of Epic
Memory," Derek Walcott makes this statement:

There is a force of exultation, a celebration of luck,
when a writer finds himself a witness to the early
morning of a culture that is defining itself, branch by
branch, leaf by leaf, in that self-defining dawn, which
is why, especially at the edge of the sea, it is good
to make a ritual of the sunrise. (79)

Walcott goes on to say:

History is [not] obliterated by this sunrise....The
sea sighs with the drowned from the Middle Passage, the
butchery of the aborigines, Carib and Aruac and Taino,
bleeds in the scarlet of the immortelle, and even the
actions of surf on sand cannot erase the African
memory, or the lances of cane as a green prison where
indentured Asians ... are still serving time. (81)

Walcott's words appropriately frame this paper, for in Lorna Goodison's
poetic world, text becomes theater and in this dramatic setting she

Queens College, City University of New York


creates alternative landscapes, both physical and metaphorical, that
become routes which lead to recovery and wholeness. Etched into
Goodison's consciousness are the Caribbean's traumatic experiences
of slavery and colonization in both their traditional forms and their
modern reconfigurations. Goodison, however, invents a female iden-
tity in which a history of pain is transformed into an intuitive memory
of survival and transcendence. The present time for Goodison is one
of possibility, a triumph of place and heightened consciousness, a
reinvention of self and the supremacy of Caribbean community.
At the center of this transcendent landscape in the theater of her
text, Goodison dramatizes the Caribbean experience. Her female per-
sonae immerse themselves in life-saving rituals that enable them to
conquer territories of oppression and create new ways of knowing.
Writing is both resistance and celebration, and in her visionary world,
as Goodison confronts reality and explores ways of coping, the imagi-
nation is the instrument that connects the past to the future. The ritu-
als enacted in her poetry embrace both individual and community,
renew the individual's sense of belonging and strengthen communal
ties. Presiding over the ritual spaces Goodison invents are her "wild
women," both mythic and real.
Goodison's muse and the figure inspiriting her "wild women" is none
other than Nanny, Jamaican national heroine, Ashanti woman, Maroon
warrior and balmist who is "schooled in the green-giving ways of the
roots and vines/made accomplice to the healing acts/of Chainey root,
fever grass & vervain" (Selected Poems 69). Goodison's Nanny was
trained in Africa and sent to the New World "all [her] weapons within
[her]" (Selected Poems 70). She epitomizes complete self control, self-
knowledge and an integrated consciousness. In mythologizing Nanny,
endowing her with supernatural and psychic powers and facilitating
her journey from Africa to the New World, through time and space, the
poet positions her as an agent of resistance and subversion and a sym-
bol of the supremacy of the female self: "all my weapons within me./I
was sent, tell that to history" (Selected Poems 70).
The qualities of resistance and subversion are made manifest in
Goodison's women, her female personae, Nanny's daughters. These
women range from simple country women attempting to eke out an
existence in hard guava seasons to women who have retreated from
an external world of deprivation and pain to an internal world of possi-
bility and healing. "Thyme" in "From the Garden of the Women Once
Fallen," shows how a woman "living in a tenement of enmity," "boiled a
handful/of fresh green thyme/to carry the smell of Sunday as usual."


Thyme is the "steaming incense of save-face" (To Us All Flowers Are
Roses). The female persona in "For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her
Strength," is equally creative:

She could work miracles, she would make a garment from a square of cloth
in a span of defined time. Or feed twenty people on a stew made from
fallen-from-the head cabbage leaves and a carrot and a cho-cho and a
palmful/of meat. (Selected Poems 73)

Other of Goodison's women inhabit an internal space where they function
as women entirely in control of their lives. "Ceremony for the Banishment
of the King of Swords" presents a woman existing in a domestic space of
alienation and passive sexuality who embarks on an internal journey
where she discovers a "new source of singing" (Selected Poems 120).
The unity of external and internal worlds in Goodison's poetry is not
ephemeral. Located in the image of "wildness," beauty and female power,
it transcends the mundane and gives strength, coherence and dramatic
shape to the real and imaginary landscapes the women inhabit. These
landscapes provide the background against which the women act out
the various roles to which they have been assigned traditionally, as well
as fashion the new selves they are in the process of creating.
"Annie Pengelly" is a poem in which time and place are actually
sensed and physical landscapes seamlessly merge with landscapes of
the mind. Goodison brings together both pain and possibility. She cap-
tures the endlessly agonizing Middle Passage journey in "long mawed
ships," and moving from the public humiliation of the auction block,
"For sale Bidderman, one small girl,/ one small African girl answering
now / to the name of Annie," she brings into existence Annie's life of
quiet desperation and utter loneliness:

For Missus began to make Annie
sleep across her feet
come December when northers began to blow.

When this false winter breeze would
careen across canefields
Missus would make Annie lie draped,
heaped across her feet
a human blanket
nothing covering her as she gave
her warmth to Missus. (To Us All Flowers Are Roses 29)


Encoded within this text is a number of performances. In addition to
the several layers of history and the narratives of distant past and
immediate present, is the personal, tragic narrative of Annie's mistress
who sings "her half-crazed song of rejection" (30). The mistress, en-
slaved by love, abandoned by her husband and entrapped in a world
of alienation and repression, involves herself in rituals of violence:
"Missus jook [Annie] with a pearl-tipped pin," and when Annie falls
asleep "slap[s] her awake again" (30). Goodison removes Annie from a
space of confinement and places her in a space of liberation: "Soft feath-
ers from the breast of / a free, soaring bird, / one bright blanket, and
her name returned, / she who is precious to us" (31).
Goodison rescues Annie Pengelly from the anonymity of official his-
tory and returns her name. In repossessing her name, Annie regains
her stolen identity. In the words of Janheinz Jahn, "Naming is an incan-
tation, a creative act....For the word holds the course of things in train
and changes and transforms them" (Muntu 133). Annie Pengelly is trans-
formed from a slave trapped in a torturous past to a figure represent-
ing freedom. Goodison surrounds Annie with "soft feathers ... from a
free soaring bird." The bird, in Goodison's poetry, very often is sym-
bolic of the imagination's soaring freedom, its flight from the destruc-
tive elements of society and a tortured history. The flight of the bird is
analogous to the poet's journey, a journey through art and life that is
full of wonder and tinged with dread. Goodison captures the enchant-
ment as well as the dread. In "Trident," the poet's world is an expan-
sion of "Paradise," rivers, and "foaming," "churning" seas. As this world
is reduced, the figure of the female persona enlarges to fill the space;
the self expands. She glimpses the splendid possibilities of the vision-
ary world and acknowledges the poet's role as initiator of unity in com-

Accept the sea the salt the bread.
May the peace within this poem
stay the devils in our heads.

Out of the blackbird's feathers shine
the holy peacock blue.
All things, all things work together.
(To Us All Flowers Are Roses 73)

"Blue" with its association to the heart of the sea represents the tran-
scendence of the imagination and the supremacy of self knowledge.


These two forces come together in "Deep-Sea Diving" where the per-
sona is a fairmaid or water mamma. Diving becomes a metaphor for an
intuitive awareness of all meaning, the poet's grasp of the natural and
supernatural universe. Traditionally, fairmaids transform mediocrity
into genius. Goodison's female persona presents a facade of hesitancy;
she appears to negate her powers: "It is difficult at first, learning to
breathe below water / to convert the lungs meant only for inhalation
on earth" (To Us All Flowers Are Roses 55). What she is actually doing
is concealing her powers: "do not fear to dive deeply. / It is necessary,
in order to master all the levels" (56). These are all the levels of knowl-
edge. Under the sea, new worlds are exposed; she enters the fairmaid's
realm of magic and infinite change, and becomes a force for transfor-
mation. She can now achieve the level of transcendence:

And when that is mastered, when all that is done
the teacher will introduce you to the possibilities,
infinite possibilities of flying. (56)

In addition to the wholeness of personality and identity now achieved,
flight and the mastery of aerial territory, suggest an explosion of con-
fining boundaries; the Annie Pengelleys, the "lace sellers," the "women
once fallen" and all the female dispossessed who people Goodison's
poetic world, journey through history and myth transforming the
deadly territories they inhabit into new worlds of achievement and
self integration.
Goodison invents strategies that enable her women to survive and
enter into these new worlds. One strategy they adopt and have mas-
tered is that of doubling. Doubling is an art that has its roots in the
vodou concept of marassa. In the vodou religion, the marassas or twin
spirits are "endowed with supernatural power which makes them ex-
ceptional beings" (M6traux 146). The concept of the marassa is an ac-
knowledgment of the duality of human nature. Maya Deren suggests
that "the worship of the Marassa, The Divine Twins, is a celebration of
man's twinned nature: half matter, half metaphysical; half mortal, half
immortal; half human, half divine" (38). Goodison's women withdraw
from the world of the real into an internal world where recovery and
healing are made possible. On one level, they perform their duties and
go about the business of living their ordinary lives. On another level,
they inhabit internal territories where the fragile self, battered in the
real world, is reconstructed. For example, in "Some Things You do Not
Know about me," the poet explores the intensely personal worlds of


the poetic consciousness and the creative process. Here the persona/
poet is totally immersed in the vibrancy and power of the act of crea-
tion. In her private space she is constantly involved in action and move-
ment: "My hands fly to the keys and out like I'm pulling out music notes,
/ and my feet, my feet are dancing" (To Us All Flowers Are Roses 57).
However, when her companion comes home, she is "placid, calm, nor-
mal"(58). Doubling provides protection and allows space for creative
"Bringing the Wild Woman Indoors" and "The Revival Song of the
Wild Woman" are companion poems. The "wild woman" is the perso-
na's alter ego and both poems foreground the double reality to which
women are subjected. The persona inhabits an internal psychological
space in which she is the subject of historical and social experiences,
experiences that have rendered her an outcast, silent and removed
from the circle of community: "'Instead of an attic'", she says, "you
have forced me to live / under the house-bottom with your discarded
things" (Turn Thanks 89). But this performance is merely camouflage
under which the selves of Goodison's persona are integrated:

And as she spoke you saw yourself in her, the wild woman,
your true sister. And you say, "Thank you for being the mad one,
the wild heart, the crazy woman, the Accompong Nanny warrior."
And that's when you brought her to live inside with you forever.
(Turn Thanks 90)

What inspirits this New World woman is the Ashanti woman,
Accompong Nanny.
In "Bringing the Wild Woman Indoors," the fragmented persona is
initiated into a new world. Cleansed in a "baptism of pure rain water"
and dressed in "starched garments of white," she is prepared for her
messianic role identified in "The Revival Song of the Wild Woman." To
sing her revival song, she is dressed in "fiery red," signaling her role as
messenger. According to Seaga, in revivalist religions red is associated
with the Angel Gabriel (11). This poem is quite remarkable. Goodison
dots the landscape with powerful symbols associated with Caribbean
New World religions. Each symbol is a guidepost on the persona's jour-
ney: "the wild woman is in ascendancy today, summoning the freed
soul in you to testify and pray" (Turn Thanks 92). Human life and activ-
ity merge with the physical characteristics and the surface features of
the landscape.


A key stop on the journey is August Town, the village named to com-
memorate emancipation. Hope River in August Town is an important
landmark known in Jamaica as the "miraculous stream" where Alexan-
der Bedward, the revivalist, dipped his followers in order to heal them
physically and spiritually. Goodison moves in imagination right into
the busy center of Half Way Tree. It is in this urban landscape that the
persona testifies "freely" and dances her "unconquered dance" accom-
panied by "tumbling tamborines" and drums and "a silver horn to blow
the bad-minded down" (Turn Thanks 92). She moves "seamlessly / up
and down between the worlds of spirit and sense, "like the flight / of
the mystical dove" (Turn Thanks 92). Goodison's persona is half woman,
half spirit, but there is no competition, both parts are equal. The dance
becomes a celebration of duality and balance. It is also a representa-
tion of resistance. Music and dance, according to Mervyn Alleyne, are
"major instruments both of cohesion and of revolt" (118). Here,
Goodison's wild woman achieves a rare equilibrium, an integration of
spirit and sense.
Discussing Lorna Goodison, in another context, Jennifer Rahim sug-
gests that for Goodison, "the tropics is primarily a life-giving, healing,
mysterious sanctuary, where each life and place is an icon for reveren-
tial contemplation" (79). It is this presence of a "mysterious sanctu-
ary" that Goodison achieves in "The Revival Song of the Wild Woman."
Many of Goodison's poems are performance pieces. On the stage of
her text, Lorna Goodison sings of "the unity of all things" ("Trident,"
To Us All Flowers Are Roses ). She creates sacred spaces, cathedrals of
the word that provide sanctuaries where her wild women are transfig-
ured and find wholeness and "heartease."


Works Cited

Alleyne, Mervyn. Roots of Jamaican Culture. London: Pluto, 1989.
Deren, Maya. Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. New York:
McPherson, 1991.
Goodison, Lorna. Selected Poems. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 1992.
Turn Thanks. Urbana and Chicago: Illinois UP, 1999.
To Us, All Flowers Are Roses. Urbana and Chicago: Illinois
UP, 1995.
Jahn, Janheinz. Muntu: African Culture and the Western World. New
York: Grove, 1961.
M6traux, Alfred. Voodoo in Haiti. New York: Schocken, 1972.
Rahim, Jennifer. "From Archaeology to Iconology: The Tropics in Sen-
ior's Gardening in the Tropics and Goodison's To Us, All Flowers
are Roses. JWIL 8.2(1999): 68-82.
Seaga, Edward. Revival Cults in Jamaica. A Jamaica Journal Reprint
3.2 (1969).
Walcott, Derek. The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory. New York:
Farrar, 1992.

Snow on the Canefields/
(the De-icing of a Canadian City):
Jamaican-Canadian Identity and Kinetic
Language in ahdri zhina mandiela's dark
diaspora ...in dub: a dub theatre piece

Loretta Collins*

this native- natio
(n)- language- nation
language culture- vo

And the connexion in-
hears, as I say, as I
see it, in the origin
of the poem in SOUNN
and its capacity so
metimes like miracu-
loosely its compulsio
(n) towards enactmen
(t), sometimes perform
mativeness of its/ th-
eir timehri

Today's 'oral poet',
like the modern calyp
sonian, composes a mu
sical or scripturesqu

* University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.


(e) surprising SCORE.
designed to be enact-
ed- to come alive-
off that 'page'-wi-
thin a BREATHING houm
or audience-retain-
ing the tradition of the Oral Tradition's
basis in individual/
community call-and-re
sponse kinesis into
collective houm

Kamau Brathwaite1

Olive Senior, in the poem "Colonial Girls School," depicts a Jamai-
can colonial education system that "erased" "our loudness, our laugh-
ter," muffling the girls' voices that recited ancient and modern histo-
ries of world empires. "There was nothing left of ourselves/ Nothing
about us at all." Girls studied Kings and Queens of England or
"Wheatfields of Canada," rather than the history and landscapes of Ja-
maica.2 Commenting on the inadvertent creative confusions caused by
the disjunction between lived experiences and language in the Carib-
bean and those encountered in the colonial literary canon, Kamau
Brathwaite's The History of the Voice cites the startling poetry created
by "Caribbean children who, instead of writing in their 'creole' essays
'The snow was falling on the playing fields of Shropshire'... wrote: 'the
snow was falling on the canefields'. trying to have both cultures at the
same time."3 The experimental "dub theatre" by ahdri zhina mandiela,
a Jamaican-Canadian woman writer, dancer, and performer, meditates

1 Kamau Brathwaite, ConVERSations with Nathaniel Mackey (Minneapolis: We
Press & Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics. 1999) 221-222.
2 Olive Senior, "Colonial Girls School." Sisters of Caliban: Contemporary Women
Poets of the Caribbean, ed. M.J. Fenwick. [Falls Church, Virginia: Azul Editions,
1996] 328-329.
3 Kamau Brathwaite, History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language
in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry. [London and Port of Spain: New Beacon Books,
1984] 9.


upon the fact that when one lives between and betwixt Jamaica and
Canada, the snow does sometimes fall upon the canefields, and some-
times in the cityscapes of Canada, green shoots of cane knife through
one's wheatfields of frozen memories. How does a woman struggle to
uncrate her "sun-runnelled" visions of home, immersed in an ice-cul-
ture? How does she bury her Canadian luggage in the canefields on
journeys back to the Caribbean? Mandiela's choreopoem does not fo-
cus upon the erasure of Caribbean identity by the colonial education
system, but on the dynamic inscription of Caribbean and African cul-
tures on the global page and sound waves.
Innovating an experimental scripting, performance, and cinematic
style that addresses the complexities of reshaping identity and sub-
jectivity in a post-colonial era, mandiela has transformed the already
malleable "dub" art form into a medium of flow and rupture, intertextual
play, public script flipping, musical melange, and celebratory resist-
ance. Post-performance, dark diapsora... in dub, a full-length dub the
tre work, is now available in three versions, the complete printed text,
the audio recording Step Into My Head, and as scenes and voice-overs
woven into the soundtrack of mandiela's film about black women's
theatre in Toronto, Ontario, On/ Black/ Stage/ Women.4 Mervyn Mor-
ris, in "Printing the Performance," discusses the difficulties of convey-
ing in the print format the dynamic "words in audible motion" (Gordon
Rohlehr) and performance of dub poetry. He argues that we "can never
put the performance into print. The performance is an oral- or an
audiovisual event. The end of the performance exists at a time when
earlier moments of the performance have already vanished."5 Mandiela
would agree with Morris's assessment of the difficulty of evoking the
embodied poem and the ephemeral performance on the printed page,
since she calls the print version of her dub theatre "words" that "are/
for/ever// more/ just fossilled:/ language" ("this claimer" 3). Nonethe-
less, by comparing mandiela's audio and cinematic versions to the
printed text of dark diaspora in dub, this article concentrates upon the

4 The film version also uses mandiela's techniques of rupture and suture, ex-
perimenting with camera angles, splicing clips, overlays, and blurred images. My
thanks to Chris Kennedy at V-Tape, the Toronto-based video distributor for an op-
portunity to screen On/Black/Stage/ Women (1997). The film is available from V-
Tape, 401 Richmond St. W., Suite 452, Toronto, Canada M5V 3A8.
5 Mervyn Morris, "Printing the Performance," Is English We Speaking and Other
Essays (Kingston, Jamaica: lan Randle Publishers, 1999) 45.


ways in which mandiela uses typography and "dub" techniques in the
script to create an effect of orality and a kinetic "score" for an enact-
ment of the complex thoughts and psyche of a contemporary Jamai-
can-Canadian black woman.
As Caribbean diaspora studies scholars and creative artists have
documented the histories and experiences of Anglophone Caribbean
migration, they have noted with particular interest new representa-
tions of "Caribbeanness" as located in a variety of global settings.
George Lipsitz, critic of culture and popular music, calls the current
era "a period of displacement and migration, of multiculturalism and
multilingualism, of split subjects and divided loyalties."6 Expressive
musical and oral performance forms originating in the islands, such as
reggae, dub poetry, calypso, and soca, have been experimented with
by artists who speak to the realities of negotiating an identity shaped
by Caribbean heritage in metropolitan settings where "the Caribbean"
ambivalently figures simultaneously in discourses and policies of ex-
ile, immigration backlash, job discrimination, criminal justice, touristic
voyeurism, and celebratory multiculturalism. Transboundaried artists,
such as mandiela, have begun to meditate upon their connectedness
with their particular Caribbean homelands, their new homes, and vari-
ous marginalized groups in local and international arenas. Mandiela's
interest in expanding an artform at the same time that she works to
establish interlinks between activists in culturally plural settings has
dramatically affected the artform of "dub poetry."
Although some artists labeled as dub poets have rejected the term
as unrepresentative of the full body of their work and their understand-
ing of themselves as poets, mandiela grounds herself in the form, claims
the label, and works it to its fullest capacity. Mutabaruka, the Jamai-
can poet best known for popularizing reggae poetry, has complained
that the "term 'dub poetry' is very limiting in relationship to what is
manifested in the works itself": "Categorization of works such as this
does not allow to be adventurous or experimental (that is if the artiste
allows titles to hinder him). Whenever labels are placed on peoples'
work, one is seen as digressing if the work is not kept within the con-
fines of the label placed on it."7 In addition to questioning the term

6 George Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism and the
Poetics of Place (London and New York: Verso, 1994) 29.
7 Mutabaruka, Interview with Carter Van Pelt, 1998 cvanpelt/travel.muta/html>


"dub" as a useful or valid referent for the genre of Caribbean perform-
ance poetry infused with oral and musical cadences, critics have ques-
tioned the flexibility of the form itself as an expressive medium. Victor
Chang, in a 1988 review of Christian Habekost's anthology of dub po-
etry, Dub Poetry: 19 Poets from England and Jamaica, observed that the
form has been limiting in terms of artistic innovations of poetic lan-
guage and tone: "[W]hile dub poetry covers a range of topics, its tonal
range as represented here is essentially limited: protesting, threaten-
ing, accusatory. And we need to recognize this. I am not saying that
this poetry does not have its value or that it should be like traditional
poetry. I merely want to suggest that we cannot often expect any sub-
tlety of approach, anything that is inward-looking, musing, quiet, re-
flective, tender, delicate, registering a complexity of position or feel-
ing."8 However, mandiela, by patterning her work after foundational
poets such as Michael Smith and Linton Kwesi Johnson in her earlier
collection Speshal Rikwes, meditating extensively in poems and prose
on the aesthetics of the sound system operator, and experimenting
with various musical forms, has come to make "dubbing" an integral
process of her emotive vocal expression, meditative reflections, and
scripting of print versions.9

8 Jamaica Journal 21:3 (August-October 1988) pp. 49-52. Mervyn Morris- em-
phasizing that Jamaican-British Linton Kwesi Johnson has rejected the term "dub
poet" in favor of the more inclusive "poet"- has argued that avoiding the label
might encourage fans and critics to "focus (with fewer classificatory anxieties)" on
rejoicing in "the merits of each piece." See Morris, "'Dub Poetry'?," Is English We
Speaking and Other Essays, p. 43.
9 Performance poets influenced by che "dub style" now integrate various creole
to standard language registers and musical styles into their poems. Many perform-
ers reject the label of dub poet, yet several internationally recognized artists con-
tinue to be described as "dub poets": Lillian Allen, Linton Kwesi Johnson,
Mutabaruka, Oku Onuora, Benjamin Zephaniah, Afua Cooper, Michael Smith, Jean
'Binta' Breeze, Clifton Joseph, Michael St. George, ahdri zhina mandiela, and Cherry
Natural. In 1979, poet Oku Onuora defined the art form as poetry that has a "built-
in reggae rhythm." See Christian Habekost, Verbal Riddim: The Politics and Aesthet-
ics of African-Caribbean Dub Poetry (Amsterdam and Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 1993)
3. Recently both poets who defend the term "dub" and those who reject the label
have demonstrated the adaptability of the form to new musical, emotive, and per-
formative registers. Oku Onuora, who has been credited with ,'oining the term "dub
poetry," argues that the aesthetics of "dub," influenced by mie dub music innova-
tions of the sound system operators, cannot be limited either in form or musical
patterning: "The poem dictates the rhythm and there are no limits. The very word
'dub' means that you have no limitations. You can dub the shit into any kind of


Although the word "dub" originally referred to technologically ma-
nipulated, mixed, and distorted instrumental and vocal tracks sam-
pled from Rhythm and Blues, ska, and reggae music, the term was
adopted by some poets influenced by the performances of Jamaican
sound system deejays. Dub music, a style popularized in Jamaica dur-
ing the roots reggae era, was often highly mediated by sound technol-
ogy. Deejays began to perform talk-overs to the musical tracks, and
dub poets were influenced by these vocal performance styles and
musical innovations. Dub music, its attention to repetition, its manipu-
lation and suspension of sound samples, its heightened and distorted
exaggeration of rhythm section breaks, and its "melodic interest in bass
frequencies" modeled new techniques for the voice.10 Tricia Rose, in
her critical study of rap music, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Cul-
ture in Contemporary America (1994), analyzes rappers who use their
voices "as percussive instruments, bending words, racing through
phrases, pausing and stuttering through complicated verbal rhythms."
Rose's description of rap, an oral artform differing from dub poetry in
performance style and theme, nonetheless accurately describes how
the poetic voice of dubbers is enhanced by its influences from sound
technology. Christian Habekost has provided a cogent explanation of
the form and its multiple presentation modes:

rhythms, whether hip hop, jazz, blues. I employ music from the black world. But I
wouldn't regard myself as a reggae artist. I am first and foremost a dub poet. (See
Carolyn Cooper, Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the "Vulgar" Body of Jamai-
can Popular Culture (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1995) 80-81;
Oku Onuora, Interview, 1995 intoku.66.html>). Linton Kwesi Johnson's recent CD and print collection Tings and
Times blends spoken word poetry with reggae and other international musical forms
(including European folk violin and accordion). Reflective and introspective in mood
and performance style, several of the poems meditate upon current global shifts,
the New World Order, and Johnson's own changing identity politics. Dub poetry
has been globalized not only in terms of its networks of distribution and the shift-
ing social concerns of its practitioners, but also in its practice among cultures of
hybridity forged between the overlapping African, Caribbean, Latin American, and
Asian diasporas. In the tracks "Us and Dem" and "Black Politics of Today" on the
CD Us and Dem, Jamaican-British dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah comments on glo-
bal systems of injustice at work in Nicaragua, Chile, Kurdistan, Northern Ireland,
and Palestine. Zephaniah's collaborations with Asian-British artists have experi-
mented with blending the spoken word with fusions of reggae, Punjabi, and bangra
musical traditions.
10 See Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary
America (Hanover, New Haven: Wesleyan UP, 1994) 67.


Dub poetry is neither a literary genre nor exclusively a musical style.
Yet it is almost everything in between. Dub poetry may be presented
in the form of live performances, on record or cassette, or in the me-
dium of the printed text. Dub poets may recite their works a cappella,
over the playback-sounds of cassette music, to the accompaniment
of a percussionist, or against the amplified sounds of a fully-fledged
band. Their performances may take place in a classroom or in a prison,
at demonstrations and on picket lines, at established literary read-
ings, in a local pub or on an international concert stage. Dub poetry
may be combined with and incorporated into drama, dance, and film."

Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite calls the "nation language" poetry
that demands "not only the griot but the audience" "total expression."
He claims that "Dub poetry insists upon the embodied poem. The Car-
ibbean vernacular vocabularies of movement and dance, the physicality
of the performer, are all significant aspects of the impressive display
and exchange between poet and audience."12
Appreciative of the pan-Africanist visions of poet Aime Cesaire, the
social analyses of C.L. R. James, Steve Biko, and Walter Rodney, the
leadership of Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela, and Kwame Nkrumah,
and the poetic innovations of black women Ntozake Shange, Sonia
Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, and others, mandiela asserts
her place in a rich tradition that seeks to quench the "thirst" created
by "drinking 30 years/ of immigrant legacy/ in the dark diaspora" ("dark
diaspora" 50). By working with a dub aesthetic, she devises a poetic
language and form fluid enough to allow her to sift through and mix
the cultural fragments, slogans, world-events, icons, public figures, and
musical expressions that unify African people in an age of civil rights
activism, decolonization, electronic media transmission, and global
musical movements. Fusing, weaving, and fragmenting pieces of lan-
guage taken from distinct struggles and artistic movements from dif-
ferent regions in the African continent, England, the Caribbean, the
United States, and Canada, mandiela composes a dramatic sequence
of poems that easily code switches between discourses, nation lan-
guages, and musical rhythms. The dubbing techniques of the theatri-
cal work provide the ideal means of cutting and mixing in a compressed
and dynamic form the diverse "cultural remnants" and varied psycho-
logical states that the work brings to the surface. Rich and varied in

Habekost, Verbal Riddim, p. 1.
12 Brathwaite, History of the Voice, p. 18.


emotive registers and tone, her work defies Chang's assessment of dub
poetry as an artform incapable of expressing a varied tonal range or
introspective musings. Brathwaite attempts to describe the ability of
English in the creole continuum to express "the submerged, surrealist
experience and sensibility" impacting "contemporary Caribbean peo-
ple."13 Although mandiela's dub theatre piece fluctuates between stand-
ard English and other forms of Caribbean English, she is deeply inter-
ested in tapping into and poetically "imaging" the surrealistic experi-
ence coded in the sensibilities of "the present day psyche of the black
diaspora... as evidenced in a black woman's journey in 1990s canada"
(vii). Mandiela's script moves across the pages with an electric and
surprising kinetic energy, scripture and script that begs enactment and
collective response. Yusef Komunyakaa uses the term "vertical veloc-
ity" to describe the speed and pulsating orality of performance poems
recently published in the USA collection Listen Up!14 Mandiela's scripted
poems generate a vertical velocity with the fluidity of a deejay's wiz-
ardry at the sound system controls. This article examines the means
by which mandiela employs "dubbing" techniques to infuse the printed
version of her dub theatre choreopoem with some of the emotive depth
and kinesis of the performed versions.15
First performed at the 1991 "Fringe of Toronto" Theatre festival, dark
diaspora... in dub is comprised of twenty-one poems choreographed
with a variety of dance vocabularies in traditional, pop, and contem-
porary modes. In the recorded version one may hear the emotive and
rich alto voice of the griot or chantrel, mandiela, performing the poem
sequence to the accompaniment of-or in the a cappella rhythms of-

13 Kamau Brathwaite, "History of the Voice," Roots (Ann Arbor: U Michigan
Press, 1993) 266.
14 Yusef Komunyakaa, foreword, Listen Up!: Spoken Word Poetry, ed. Z6e Angle-
sey (New York: One World, The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1999) 3.
15 Mandiela is not the only dub poet to experiment with staging full-length the-
atrical works in dub. Jamaican-British Benjamin Zephaniah has also created two
"reggae operas," Hurricane Dub (1988) and Job Rocking (1989). However, like more
conventional "musicals," his reggae operas dramatize a plot sequence. The dia-
logue, scripted entirely in dub poetry, adheres closely to the reggae lyric form. He
does not experiment with images, language, musical forms, and modes of composi-
tion in order to express the interiorized histories and psyches of the black diaspora,
as mandiela does. In the far more experimental and non-linear dark diaspora in dub,
mandiela expands the dub poetry form further than any Caribbean spoken word
poet has, combining poems in several thematic and musical registers with ener-
gized choreography and movement.


various music of the African and Caribbean diasporas: African drum-
ming, the blues, jazz, calypso, soca, steel pan, and reggae. Her strong,
husky, and jazzy voice powerfully alternates between rage, sardonic
humor, sadness, longing, desire, seduction, mockery, bitterness, cel-
ebratory exuberance, and the diasporic "shout." The dub play is meant
to be performed by seven to eleven women, with one solo "voice/shape/
sound" dubbing out the internal reveries of the lone character. The
body of women in mandiela's cast, through mime, movement, and dance
mold the spoken word into the image shape.
Contradictory psyche composed of the sometimes inhospitable
chillblain boned-winter society of the Nawth and the borrowed and
never returned lands of "beach/bum/ fun-in-the-sun &/ tongue-tied-
calypso rum," mandiela's narrator in dark diaspora... in dub animates
an array of voices, choreographic movements, and musical genres to
find a new expressive medium capable of exploring a diasporic sub-
jectivity and the submerged unity between African peoples of all na-
tions. Although academic postcolonial discourses, including Homi K.
Bhabha's, have focused on the multiple displacements of the migra-
tory subjectivity, mandiela roots her poetic explorations of
postcolonial subjective multiplicity in an interrogation of the histori-
cal circumstances of the global scattering and commingling of Afri-
can and Caribbean peoples, as well as the role of economics, the
ownership of raw materials, wage labor, and cultural imperialism in
continuing spheres of domination. She does not dislodge theories of
the plural migrant self from a rigorous critique of the material condi-
tions that produce the necessity for a liminal and limbo-like response
to global transformations. Individual staged poems vacillate between
the personal longings of a woman as both man-lover and woman-lover
("who is my lover? now," "for my sister..."), as black woman in Canada,
as Jamaican, as African, and as sister of others in the African world.
Poems range from a focus on celebratory dance rituals of passage
and appreciation of family ties ("mandiela, sacred dancing," "in the
canefields") to sardonic exposes on the commercial plundering of
her island homeland ("aluminum forests," "sugar & spice & parboiled
rice"), the difficult return to Jamaica ("on my way home"), and the
cultural coldness of Canadian anti-immigration-backlash ("blues
bus," "ice culture," "snow white morning"). Pop culture comes un-
der the lyrical gun as well, to borrow Carolyn Cooper's term, as
mandiela harshly and humorously disses the mis-appropriations of
black expressive culture by white U.S. rapper Vanilla Ice in the poem


"de-icing."16 Mandiela calls the collective "surety of being 'afrikan by
instinct'" a "continual driving force." The artist draws upon both the
dub aesthetic and the "driving forces" of Afrikan culture to create a
form that challenges limited representations of class, gender, nation,
and race. As the poem "afrikan by instinct" proclaims, street musi-
cians/ politicians/ strait talking/ hippin-hoppin/ thespians/ gays & les-
bians/ shape identity" (42).17
In this work, mandiela defies the public scripts expected from
and produced by Afro-Caribbean-Canadian playwrights, who have,
as she believes, catered to a contemporary audience versed in
multiculturalism and craving "the lingo of everyone else's cultural
speak." Attempting to go beyond the "made for a Canadian audience"
black theatre experiments of the past, mandiela concentrates on tradi-
tional and globalized "styles & forms culled from [her] black midst"
not only in her scribal text, but also in the audio version.18 Mandiela is

16 See Carolyn Cooper, "'Lyrical Gun': Metaphor and Role Play in Jamaican Dancehall
Culture," The Massachusetts Review 35: 3 &4 (Autumn-Winter 1994): 429447.
17 The lone dub poem proved too narrow a form and the community of dub
practioners in Canada proved too narrow in consciousness as mandiela developed
her artform in relation to her ideas about identity and community work. During the
1993 International Festival of Dub Poetry in Toronto, dub poets debated issues of
aesthetics and ideological positioning. Mandiela, one of the organizers, felt alien-
ated by the experience because she had tried to assert that dub poetry should be
able to provide a forum/format for coalition building between aggrieved groups
and progressive changes in societal practices. She spoke to her fellow dub practi-
tioners about homophobia, cultural mixing, 'non-traditional family structuring,
spiritual practices which don't jive well with a judeo-christian ethic, and alterna-
tive art practices and disciplines,' for which she received condemnation. Mandiela
has asserted both in her creative work and in her public statements support for a
complex and tolerant understanding of identity politics that rebels and revels in
black experience but does not exclude the various other identity callings that have
marginalized certain individuals and groups.
18 In her first print collection, Speshal Rikwes (1985), mandiela takes on the role
of cultural translator, expressing the need to teach members of her non-Jamaican
reading and listening audience how to voice and interpret a "sounds style, which
,ven though recognizable as English, proliferate with a barrage of Jamaican ex-
pressions and progressions" ("Introduction"). By the time that mandiela puts to-
gether the dub theatre work, she allows her characters to speak from their "imme-
diately familiar" languages and experiences. Although she provides an introduc-
tion that explains the choreopoem as an exploration of "the present day psyche as
evidenced in a black woman's journey into 1990's Canada," she no longer devotes
energy to serving as a translator of the Jamaican and Rastafarian language refer-


an artist who believes in total expression. Describing the process of
creating dark diaspora... in dub, Mandiela explains, "by experimenting
with, and expanding on some of the rhythm and vocal orchestration
that is endemic to dub poetry,- such as the 'vocal echo' and 'rhythm
cresendo [sic]' elements- and adding to this, orchestrated dance
movement in choreography, the total audio/visual experience
emerged." In an interview, mandiela added that "after the poetry, move-
ment was the next addition generated for the piece":

Determined that movement as another layer of language was essen-
tial for dub theatre. even tho the movement was quite stylized and
generated from contemporary and traditional vocabulary the proc-
ess dealt less with choreography and more with creating ensemble
images/ more like moving tableaux/ this way the actors/dancers/sing-
ers & myself could mix familiarity & ease of execution to the mold; I
think this brought an 'everyday' identity, identifying with the central

As Brathwaite has noted, when dub poets draft a "scripturesque sur-
prising score" that has its genesis in sound, in the oral tradition, it
compels the voice towards enactment, performance, rather than a si-
lent reading of the text. At the same time, the performativity of the
voice and the improvised "moving tableaux," in this case, may inspire
the artist to attempt to register the orchestrations of voice, gesture,
movement- the pacings and rhythms of delivery, the emotive con-
tours, the sounds, and the trace of the body on the scribal page.
Mandiela exerts a "kinetic language"- a language of movement, fis-
sure, and fusion, in both the way that she shapes the voice and body in
performances of dark diaspora ...in dub, and the way she composes
the mus(e)cal score on the breathing page, a score compelling enact-
ment and kinesis in the audience's intellectual and visceral engage-
ment. Stewart Brown, in "'Writin in Light': Orality-thru-typography,
Kamau Brathwaite's Sycorax Video Style" deploys an analogy between
Brathwaite's recent explorations in Video Style and a musical score,
"particularly the scores of some contemporary composers who are

ences. These languages simply are an established part of Toronto metropolitan
life, as are the many musical forms, and her reading and listening audiences must
open their ears to the rhythms and the kinetic language of voice/sound/shape.
19 Telephone interview and e-mail communication, February 2000.


trying to break new musical ground, in that the score is made of sym-
bols that can be read and coded instructions that can be followed, so
that practised readers can 'play' the music in their heads from the
printed score, but the music only fulfills its potential in its perform-
ance."20 Mandiela's scribal texts similarly invites readers to be "sight-
readers" of the aural shape and rhythmical dimensions of the piece.
Although Canada as a site of Caribbean migration and the Caribbean
as a site of industrial plunder are contrasted in mandiela's dark diaspora...
in dub, she problematizes both locations and the narrator's identifica-
tions. As Ian Chambers explains in Migrancy, Culture, Identity, counter-
discourse is produced in the creative expression of migrant artists; how-
ever, these works also often break down the previously entrenched "eth-
nic, gendered, and sexual" categories of the center not solely through
creating oppositional rhetoric. Rather, as he claims, the artist may make
room for more fluid discursive and cultural constructions:

Here we are not confronted with a counter-discourse that sets argu-
ment against argument, position against position, but rather a con-
tinuous disbanding and dispersal of terms that claim to represent us,
them, and reality. Declared identifications are explored for their am-
bivalence, thereby permitting the unsuspected irruption of historical
and cultural disturbances to figure. This is to trace out something
that emerges, and continues to emerge, in the perpetual process of
identity and identifying with the possibilities of the world.21

Mandiela's poetic form champions the liberating possibilities of iden-
tity in African-Caribbean world cultures by shaking loose fragments of
language from their original contexts, dispersing and collating them
into new forms. She calls her culled linguistic materials "free-formed
cultural remnants" of "30 years/ of immigrant legacy" ("dark diaspora").
Brown offers Louis Zukofsky as an example of a poet concerned with
typography as a means "to draw attention back to the implicit signal-
ling of orality by the textual 'surface' of the poem-on-the-page."22 He

20 Stewart Brown, "'Writin in Light': Orality Through Typography, Kamau
Brathwaite's Sycorax Video Style," The Pressures of the Text: Orality, Texts and the
Telling of Tales (Edgbaston, Birmingham, England: Centre of West African Studies,
Birmingham University African Studies Series No. 4, 1995) 134.
21 lan Chambers, Migrancy Culture, Identity (London and New York: Routledge,
1996) 86.
22 Brown"'Writin in Light,'" p. 130.


emphasisedd aspects of the oral presence by their particular breaking
of the conventions in terms of the positioning of the text on the page,
line endings, word spacing, type size, italicisation, etc." On the scribal
page, mandiela borrows techniques from the Black Arts Movement
(especially Ntozake Shange) and dub poetry, the slashes, cuts, jazz
breaks, and breakage of word forms to splice and fissure, create rhythm,
phonic contours, and speed. For example, in "afrikan by instinct,"
mandiela orchestrates the lines: "she like kaiso, hi-life, r&b,/ zouk, &
dancehall style/ curry... miss lou, dub poetry/ jamming in the streets
(karamba)/ kente, kwanza, nkrumah/ c.l.r., cesaire, ngugi/ sanchez,
shange... even cosby" (44). She emphasizes that the label Jamaican-
Canadian is not an expansive enough description of a sensibility formed
by political and cultural upheavals and regenerations in the African
Caribbean cities and nations, in Soweto, New York, London, Paris, Ber-
lin, Amsterdam, Rio, Kingston, Port of Spain; in the nations of Algeria,
Uganda, Sudan, Liberia, Angola, Libya, Namibia, Congo, Belize, Surinam,
Martinique, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados, Guyana, and even Canada.
Naming the political leaders, the intellectuals of resistance movements,
the poets, the folk heroes, and the martyrs (such as L'Ouverture, Nel-
son Mandela, Walter Rodney, Cesaire, Nanny of the Maroons, and Steve
Biko of South Africa) alongside "she great/great/great" grandfather,
aunties, and her own umbilical cord severing from mother dance into
the "one god/ one aim/ one ancestry" circle of life, mandiela reworks
Caribbean identity by sifting fragments of language and music reso-
nant with their historical contexts into the pastiche of her poems.
For the reader familiar with all three audio/ film/ print versions, the
experience of reading the script is affected by the memories of the
audiovisual experience of viewing and listening to the performance.
Ruth Finnegan, in her well-known 1977 study Oral Poetry: Its Nature,
Significance, and Social Context, argues that "a piece of oral literature,
to reach its full actualization, must be performed."23 However,
mandiela's intense focus on typographical experimentation in the print
version also provides the reader of the text a different perception of
the sound/shapes/ and movement of the dub poetry sequence. As
Mineke Schipper notes, a poetry script that foregrounds orality through
typography must be studied not merely as written analogs for the per-
formed versions. He identifies "written orality" as the "transposition

23 Ruth Finnegan, Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance and Social Context (Cam-
bridge: Cambridge UP, 1977) 28.


of characteristic features of oral discourse into the written text": "In
order to appreciate [the feature of orality in texts] adequately, one
needs to study them with 'ear philology' as well as with 'eye philol-
ogy'."24 Certainly influenced by Shange's choreopoem, for colored girls
who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf and scripted
poems by the Black Arts Movement writers who employ slash marks
and blank spaces on the printed page to attack public discourses and
infuse their work with the breaks and rhythm of jazz and other African
American vernacular traditions, mandiela's work also borrows from
and develops styles of spoken word poetry that employ the digital sam-
pling innovations of contemporary dub music and rap. In both musi-
cal genres the technician cuts, splices, mixes, and layers instrumental,
vocal, or rhythm tracks. The script version of dark diaspora... in dub
uses the slashes that ruptured and seamed the printed poems of the
Black Arts Movement to splice together and fragment cultural and dis-
cursive "tracks." Stephen Henderson's study Understanding the New
Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References (1973),
emphasizes the "linguistic elegance" of African American experimen-
tal writing, acknowledging the "jazzy rhythmic effects, virtuoso free
rhyming with an emphasis on wordplay, hyperbolic imagery, metaphysi-
cal imagery, understatement, compressed and crytpic imagery, and
worrying the line."25 Mandiela's dub theatre reflects each of these tech-
niques, including the worrying of the line, or a repetition of words,
phrases, and sounds. In the script format, she heightens the effects of
each of these linguistic strategies by the typographical arrangements
of the surprising score.
Discussing the use of slash marks to mock and violently disrupt
Standard English in John Agard's poem, "Listen, Mr. Oxford Don," Mor-
ris notes that the slash can function like a weapon. Agard writes:

I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen's English
is the story of my life

24 Mineke Schipper, Beyond the Boundaries: African Literature and Literary Theory
(London: Allison and Busby, 1985) 66.
25 Stephen Henderson, Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and
Black Music as Poetic References (New York: Morrow, 1973) 33-41.


I don't need no axe
to split/ up yuh syntax
I don't need no hammer
to mash/ up yu grammar

Morris argues that typographicallyy, some of the slashes function like
images of the weapon- the knife, the axe, the hammer, slashing bash-
ing."26 The Standard English is mashed up not only by the Caribbean
English, but also by the intrusive axe marks of the slash. Quincy Troupe's
poem "Impressions/ of Chicago; For Howlin' Wolf" also uses the slash as
a weapon that cuts into the line like a sharp gust of wind: "the wind /
blade cutting in/ & out swinging over the lake.... this wind / blade was so
sharp and cold." The blade cut of the slash also adds a syncopated jazz
rhythm to the poem, so that the slash helps to mark the rhythms and
pauses of the voiced poem. Sonia Sanchez's poem "for our lady," a trib-
ute to Billie Holliday, employs the slash, blank spaces, and manipulated
word forms to indicate the jazzy performance of the poem, the synco-
pated rhythm contributing to the ironic tone:

billie. if someone
had loved u like u
shud have been loved
ain't no tellin what
kinds of songs
u wud have swung
against this country's wite mind.
or what kinds of lyrics
wud have pushed us from
our blue / nites.
yeh. billie.
if some blk / man
had reallee
made u feel
permanentlee warm....

Poetry from the Black Arts Movement period abounds with exam-
ples of lines that generate a syncopated rhythm and energy by the use
of the slash as a device of rupture.

26 Mervyn Morris, "'Is English We Speaking': West Indian Literature," Is English
We Speaking and Other Essays, p. 11.


Shange uses the slash to replace conventional punctuation, produc-
ing a vocal cadence and a breathless pacing. In for colored girls who
have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, the slash breaks up
the lines into units of meaning and emphasizes the hard-edged tone of
the speaker's demands:

hey man/ where are you goin wid alla my stuff/
this is a woman's trip & I need my stuff/
to ohh & ahh abt/ daddy/ I gotta mainline number
from my own shit/ now wontchu put me back/ & let
me play this duet/ wit this silver ring in my nose/
honest to god/ somebody almost run off wid all my stuff/7

Sometimes mandiela simply uses the slash to replace the comma or
period, creating an ongoing momentum and kinetic energy in a line,
omitting or creating breath pauses or full stops. Sometimes the slash
functions as a weapon, slicing up the line or individual words. For in-
stance, in the poem "ice culture," the word "justice" in the cold Cana-
dian context is inscribed as "just/ ice." In "de-icing," a poem that disses
Anglo-American rapper Vanilla Ice for his appropriations of the
homeboy persona and rapping, the echo/reverb effect of the repeated
word "dis" breaks down into creative manipulations of words that be-
gin with "dis," suggesting all of the means by which the poem aims to
discredit Vanilla Ice: "dis dis dis dis dis/ disrupt// disprove/ displease/
dismiss/disown/disapprove// displace/ disarm/ disturb// dismantle/
dispel// dis dis dis / dis the myth/ black is not a state of mind..." (29).
However, mandiela also uses the slash to splice together pieces of
discourse lifted from disparate circumstances, the way a rap studio
technician or deejay might splice together sound samples. For exam-
ple, in the title poem "dark diaspora," the slashes break up and splice
together fragments of language lifted from global black power strug-
gles, recombining them like sampled "rub-a-dub tracks" into a chant
that reflects the world changes impacting the subjectivity of black
women in Canada and others in African and Caribbean diasporas:

27 Excerpts from the Troupe, Sanchez, Madhubuti, and Shange poems are taken
from The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, eds. Henry Louis Gates,
Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).


...rub-a-dub tracks
replay the rumbling of revellers
chanting arms
viva! mandela/ chanting arms
garvey forever/ chanting arms
say/say it/say it
say it loud/ i'm black
& i'm proud/say it loud
black black black
black/gay gay gay/hey
say it loud/come what may
we're here to stay/
rally round/ jah! rastafari
a luta continua...
sanctions now/sanctions now/
by any means necessary/we shall overcome/
our will be done today/
after 50 eons of black tracks/
better mus come!

The word "tracks" in the penultimate line of the quotation, of course,
ironically refers to the treks of the dispersed peoples, the tracks they
have left behind or impressions they have made during period of world
change, but also the sound bites of the slogans for justice that have
resulted in gain, change, and sometimes disappointment. The under-
current ominous bass beat "rumbling" in the cadences of the reveling
sloganeers praises the victories while it mourns the martyrs and limi-
tations of resistance movements. Merging and rhyming the chants "viva!
Mandela" with "Garvey forever," mandiela uses the slashes to link the
Garveyite movement for black pride and Mandela's struggle against
apartheid in South Africa to the US singer James Brown's message,
"Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud," the anthem of many global move-
ments against colonization and in favor of self-determination. The rep-
etition, scripted the way a sound system operator might rewind a record
disc, playing the same sound bites again for emphasis, drives hard the
message to say it loudly, "black black black." However, the next line
demands a broadening of conceptualizations of black identity, splicing
together "black/ gay gay gay/ hey," a line that implicitly criticizes the
homophobia of black nationalist agendas and foregrounds recent black
gay pride activism. Dropping in the phrase "say it loud" again, the next
line recalls the struggle of Black British Caribbean people. Against im-
migration backlash, the violence of the Teddy Boys, and the racist


speeches of Enoch Powell and policies of the later government of
Margaret Thatcher, Black British activists (and London Notting Hill
carnivalists nearly banned from the street) shouted, "Come what may,
we're here to stay." The exultant chant of Rastafari is merged with the
battle cry of the former Portuguese African colonies, Mozambique and
Angola, "a luta continue." The splicing of "sanctions now," a demand
for sanctions against the Apartheid state of South Africa, is merged
with Malcolm X's program for resistance "by any means necessary"
and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s prophecy "we shall overcome," signaling
the faith that by sanctions or by revolution, a free South Africa would
be born. Ending with the dub track, "better mus come!", a Jamaican
political slogan of the Michael Manley 1972 presidential campaign and
the refrain of the reggae song "Better Must Come" by Delroy Wilson,
the poem melds the disparate chants rising up from the black world
during the past thirty years into one rhythmic chant. In the filmed ver-
sion of the poem presented in On/ Black/ Stage/ Women, the poem is
shaped by physical gestures from revolutionary struggles, including
the fist salute. In the text, dub techniques of echo, reverberation, sound
looping, and repetition of sound bites are indicated by the slashes and
repeated words, creating a layered text. As Fahamisha Patricia Brown
notes in Performing the Word: African American Poetry as Vernacular
Culture (1999), the "combining of fragments from other works, not
necessarily one's own, is more than simple allusion. The verbal pas-
tiche incorporates a multiplicity of meanings that separately and to-
gether work to enrich the poem as a whole."28
Rap producer Eric (Vietnam) Sadler explained to critic Tricia Rose
his process of layering sound samples on the Public Enemy rap song
"Night of the Living Baseheads." His description approximates what it
is like to scan a mandiela poem on the printed page: "You got stuff
darting in and out absolutely everywhere. It's like somebody throwing
rice at you. You have to grab every little piece and put it in the right
place like in a puzzle. Very complicated. All those little snippets and
pieces that go in."29 The audio versions of poems on Step Into My Head
are smooth, the vocal cadence fluidly following the musical line. Al-
though the printed script produces a sensation of orality and multiple
voicings as it is read, the ruptures and splices produced in the script

28 Fahmisha Patricia Brown, Performing the Word: African American Poetry as
Vernacular Culture (New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers UP, 1999) 71.
29 Rose, Black Noise, p. 80.


are not "sight read" in the performance. The printed score is dramati-
cally enlivened by the auditory enactment and the complex musical
accompaniment to the recorded poems. However, mandiela's printed
version is not just a script for performance. She attempts to use slashes,
spaces, and repetition of words and phrases to generate a kinetic en-
ergy speeding the flow, rupture, and splicing of discursive and sound
elements. The way that mandiela repeats certain key words and phrases
in the poem "dark diaspora" adds a pounding emphasis to the chant-
like quality of the poem, producing a percussive and musical effect
similar to the effect that Haki Madhubuti achieves in the poem "a poem
to complement other poems":

change: is u is or is u aint. change. now now change. for
the better change.
read a change. live a change. read a blackpoem.
change. be the realpeople.

The typographical choices in mandiela's script produce a similar hard
bop rhythm, the flow of free-form jazz, or the layered sampling of dub
and rap. The slash may also function like the sound system operator's
"scratching" technique of rewinding the record disc rapidly to create a
stuttering repetition of sounds, as in her poem "aluminum forests."
The poem meditates upon the stripping of the land by foreign-owned
bauxite mining in Jamaica and the arawak tombs "ex/hu ex/hu/ ex-
humed in the light-of day." Immitating the sound of machinery, and
suggesting the weary tone of the author's rage, the poem describes "the
sound of cranes, long-/ neck/noisy/cousins to/ the jan cruh/vulture
race./ it's not local birds/ calling me home again/ but ex/ca ex/ca/ ex-
cavating/ men in hats" (11). The echo and reverb technique creates a
powerful effect as the poem ends with the aluminum-tinged sounds of
deforestation that go unheard by the foreign corporations: "in my coun-
try/ once called xamaica:/ land of wood and water/ now your aluminum
forests/ when a tree falls/ the noise/ the noise/ the noise becomes foil-
/ wrapped around my tongue/ when a tree falls/ in my country/ do you
hear/ the sound/ the sound/ the sound/ the sound/ the sound/ the
sound/ the sound" (12).
In "The African Presence in Caribbean Literature," Brathwaite dis-
cusses techniques used by Caribbean poets writing in "nation-language"
and attempting to "activate" the African spiritual presence in the New
World: "In addition to sound-symbols, nation-language sets up certain


tunes, tones and rhythms which are characteristic of the folk tradi-
tion, and are often essential features of its expression. The overall
space/patterns of this language, we might say, are controlled by a
groundation tendency in which image/spirit is electrically conducted
to earth like lightning or the loa (the gods, spirits, powers, or divine
horsemen of vodun)."30 Some of the poems in mandiela's piece work
closer to the folk traditions of religious ceremony than to the deejay's
technique of splicing together sound samples. Two poems that frame
the work, "mandiela (sacred dancing)" and "jajube," evoke the song,
the drum, the dance, the calling of the spirits or divine forces, and the
birth of the sacred dancer/ griot. The typographical arrangements in
the print version of the framing ceremonial poems create a vocal chant,
a polyrhythmic drumming momentum, the beat of dancing feet, and
an electric conducting or groundation of spirit into the chantrel/ griot.
In "mandiela (sacred dancing)," the birth of the poet is heralded as a
cosmic event "born of an ancient dance," the "thunder claps/sing in
newborn" while the "lights brimming/from a broken sky." The use of
the colon, slash, and line break create the feeling of polyrhythmic drum-
ming and rhythmical breathing necessary to trump the spirit, as the
poet inherits the ancestral voice which enters her through the belly of
the drum: "my mother's hollowed womb/ sighed, I began to cry: the
rhythm/ missed beat/ as a chantrel voice took height/ in the drum
chamber,/ a steady breath/ raised/ in praise: repeat/ come come come
come: dance/ mandiela/ come: dance/ mandiela" (6). In "jajube," the
call to the dance, "come dance: mandiela" is repeated, but the African
drum beat is carried in the Rastafarian Nyabinghi dance and prayer to
'jah!" The poet is called to "catch a rhythm: a new/ beginning/mixing/
morning/ noon/ evening light/ run come/ before night..." Transforming
phrases from reggae, mandiela invokes the continuity of the African
spirit retained and creatively transformed in the music and dance of
Four of the poems in the collection explore the divided psyche of a
woman torn between memories of rural Jamaica, the alienation of the
new urban home in Toronto, and the feelings of resistance that this
tension causes. The lyrical narratives and typographical arrangements
in these scribal poems produce the introspective and assertive moods
of depression, violation, longing, cynicism, rage, and counterattack. In-
stead of splicing together remnants of public scripts, they piece together

30 Brathwaite, "The African Presence in Caribbean Literature," Roots, p. 243.


nursery rhymes, advertising rhetoric, tourism discourse, and language
lifted from histories of the Middle Passage to meditate upon the di-
vided self and the critical "double consciousness" gained from living
between sun and ice cultures. In "blues bus," a poem performed to a
slow bluesy saxophone accompaniment on the CD, mandiela uses line
breaks, spaces, parentheses and slashes to heighten the sense of al-
ienation, weariness, depression, and violation the woman feels when
she is insulted by a racial slur on the bus. Conscious of the contradic-
tions in her divided legacy of brown skin and European culture, "she
feels blue/ today. brown/ skin poured into/ paris cloth: cruel legacy."
The pauses created by the line breaks and spacing create the slow
blues drag of the lines. As the subway races through the underground
city, she sees the multi-colored patterns of the faces in the multiethnic
city: "shrouded (migrant) ice-/ dancer/ melting in the/ pungent mo-
saic/ of coloured faces/racing/ thru wind-drawn subways/ and
handwarming malls" (18). Bundled up for sub-zero temperatures, she
is a shrouded ice-dancer, a phrase that suggests the simultaneous de-
pression and exhilaration of melting anonymously and peacefully into
the mosaic of migrants in the frozen underground city. The line breaks
and slashes create the sensation of the speeding subway train and the
cinematic movement of images seen from the subway train window. Yet
even in an environment of cultural, ethnic, and racial pluralism, she hears
and feels erased by the insult fuckingg slave": "in a city where the sun/
doesn't melt/snow/ no one sees black/ in the rainbow" (18-20).
The speaker experiences the wry bitterness caused by the experi-
ence of migration and exile not only through her own life visions, but
also through stories about women family members of the previous
generation. In "in the canefields," mandiela uses the slash, colon, com-
mas, rhyme, and line breaks after the verbs to sardonically catalogue
the alienating experiences of "aunt vida" who hopefully "took off to
canada/ surfaces/ on a river called don, circled/ under dundas bridge:
docked/ on an edge, lived on a ledge/ like the pigeons." Perching in
her temporary home, working as a domestic and baby-sitter, and re-
turning home to Jamaica in her retirement, ironically, Aunt Vida dies of
diabetes and is buried in the canefields. She "unpacked her luggage/
in the canefields/ buried her baggage/ in the canefields: fell/ dead/
sugar/they said/ filled the blood in her head" (14-16). The kind of "slav-
ing" jobs Vida takes in Canada, "cooking &/ cleaning, making beds/
mornings & evenings/ tending kids she couldn't care about," leave her
with "frayed hopes" and damaged health. She returns home when it is
too late to enjoy her retirement. In "on my way home," an unnamed


woman gives the speaker advice for her own journey home, caution-
ing her against traveling with too much baggage. When she arrives
back home in Jamaica she should just "run run free/ into beckoning
hill country/ then step each step/ slowly...no!/ sink yuh feet deep/ into
rivers where crayfish hide/ in silted-/ sands, where hands fear/ where
prawn minds retreat" (25). The warm, lyrical patois voice beckons the
speaker to sink her feet deeply into the home soil. The text, un-medi-
ated by many typographical markers, allows the home voice to rise up
in its clear and lovely description. Yet, the description of the return to
Canada is fraught with the tensions of being a Caribbean person going
through Customs and resuming a life away from the homeland: "de-
clare all: duty/ free & chained junk/transformed/ by sun-/ culture/ flash
the pearly beach: smile/ fix your eyes on the sky-/ line of your shadow
in front/ & behind yuh/ step/ yuh step in confidence/ show your tag/1
last time/ then drag your bag-/ gage from home/ home again" (27). The
colons and line breaks here emphasize the poet's sardonic attitude
towards the the way that the Caribbean person is treated by Customs
officials, so that the term "duty free," is lifted out of its referential con-
text to importation fees and given mutlitple meanings, the duties per-
formed by Customs officers and the "free & and chained" status of the
immigrant, who may be treated like a criminal or a prisoner at the
border. Donning the mask of the happy native of the tourist beaches
and sunny horizons, the immigrant flashes the "pearly beach: smile"
and levels the gaze to avoid suspicion or singling out. The colon drama-
tizes the artificiality of the smile. Gazing only at the self's shadow in
front and behind, the returning woman is caught between the two
shadow selves of her divided identity, as she masquerades for the bor-
der keepers.
Creole culture and identity as viewed by the tourism industry, cul-
tural critics, and imperialist endeavors of military/ industrial complexes
are sardonically mocked by means of exposing the disjuncture between
discursive fields of representation and the historical realities in the
poem "sugar & spice & parboiled rice." Mandiela splices together child-
hood rhymes, the "Hokey Pokey" song, and a child's prayer ("thank
you for the world so bright"), to expose the cultural and economic
imperialism impacting Caribbean creole culture:

what is your life made of
made of: sugar &
& parboiled rice? sprinkle in


some sun-
dried blood or fish/preserved
in sweat/
dehydrated: pepper pepper pepper
pepper pepper pepper pepper pepper
pepper pepper pepper pepper to taste.
mix it up
stir it in the one-
pot/creole slot/ your put your right
foot in: blood gut
& rhythm....

thank you for iron vultures/
fly south/swoop down
on my backyard/have beach/ bum
fun-in-the-sun &
tongue-tied-calypso rum (9-10)

Creole Caribbean identity is celebrated by the tourism industry, which
erases differences among Caribbean peoples, exoticizing everyone into
the "one-pot," well-peppered creole slot. Added to the erasure of his-
tories of blood, sweat, dehydration in the sun, and creole meals of
"parboiled rice" and salt fish, the Caribbean is now being recolonized
by US industries, which markets the unhealthful products of "enfalac"
"'sweet & low' packs," and Big Macs. The tourism industry markets
the Caribbean, in turn, as a land of creolit6-en-vogue, happy music,
and vacation bliss, while the tourist and capitalist enterprises destroy
the land and leave Caribbean cities "dungeon-/ covered" (10). The
slashes and line breaks heighten the mocking tone and the shifting
musical rhythms of the poem. However, the slash also continues to
function as a force of fissure and suture, juxtaposing received con-
structions of the Caribbean with the poet's critical and playful con-
structions of the industrial and touristic invaders.
While the poems analyzed in the preceding passages interrogate
problematic aspects of migrant and creole identity, the poem "who is
my lover? now," focuses on sexual identity and questions of prefer-
ence. In the urban metropolis, a woman identifies with her African her-
itage by wrapping her black body in "fab-factory print/ on british wax,"
the African fabric itself presenting a paradox in the very nature of its
manufacture. The speaker questions her identity as lover and mother,
glorying in her adornments, though not wanting to be defined in a lim-
ited way by them: "who is my lover? now/ when tie-dye & batik streak


my womb/ & slinky/ essence/ stalk/ my motherly nape/ who is your
lover? now" (7). She claims the right to love whom she chooses, both
men and women with her "3K bonfire dust," "pre/frost/bush body/ lush-
copper-coloured/ passion/spike," but refuses labels or narrow defini-
tions, demanding that lovers simply "be conscious who I be/" (8). The
slashes work in this passage to seam together a torrent of seductive
and lush details that imbue the black woman's body with beauty and
desirability. Yet, in the poem "before madness comes," the slash can
also function to pile up images of alienation and unbearable feelings of
emotional weariness and physical exhaustion, which nearly drive the
speaker to madness and silence in the disappointing setting of Canada:

scrape the salt-
drenched smile from my tongue
and speak no more
to the one stone pillow/
purse my lips shut/no more
milk & and honey/no more
ice/no more
caged/eyes wide: bare/
breasts/flat/no more
my head a staircase
outside guts twisting:
no more/dreams/no more
/this voice
no more: this
no more

before madness comes (36)

The emphatic but wearily monotonous repetition of the statement "no
more" hammers home the disillusionment of immigrant dreams. The
use of slashes in the parallel phrases "caged/ eyes wide" and "bare/
breasts/ flat" creates dramatically weary pauses that drag out the lines,
showing the gutted emotions of the speaker.
Explaining her intent in creating dark diaspora... in dub, mandiela
has explained that her "aim was to expand the literary tradition of dub
poetry- by producing an integrated stage script composed entirely
from dub poems- as well to present a totally new stage experience:
dub theatre" (x). In the film On/Black/Stage/Women, stage manager of
the production, Akhaji Zakiya, explains the importance of being in-
volved in a theatrical work that merged genres of movement, dance,


music, drumming, and poetry: "The experience of being involved in a
theatrical production that didn't follow the linear 'this is your line,
that is you line' kind of script was exciting, you know? It was the first
time I had the opportunity to see the poetic form utilized in such a
way, and it definitely helped me to emerge as a poet and increasingly
as a performance poet." Traditional text formats would not represent
the excitement of the performed version. Although the script is not a
literal score for the recording or the choreographed stage presenta-
tion, mandiela's innovations in dub typography produce a script driven
by the kinetic energy of spliced, reverberating language fragments, al-
lowing the reading experience to be a complex and enjoyable explora-
tion of identities and voices from the Caribbean diaspora. If Zakiya's
comment is an indication, mandiela's experimentation in form may
influence future innovative extensions of the dub poetry artform.

"To us all flowers are roses":
Writing ourselves into the
literature of the Caribbean

Velma Pollard*

T he language of the earliest written creative efforts of colonized
peoples the world over has tended to be the language of the
colonizer which is the language of Education and of all official transac-
tions in these societies. In the former British West Indies, that language
has been English. The very act of writing in another language, during
the fledgling years, was revolutionary in a situation where "Literature"
invariably meant English (or at least British) Literature. In schools in
the Caribbean as in other British colonies children were taught British
and European History and studied English novels, poems and plays.
Merle Hodge in her (1970) novel Crick Crack Monkey dramatizes/sati-
rizes this situation. Olive Senior's now famous (1985:26) words describe
it succinctly: "There was nothing about us at all":

Studying: History Ancient and Modern
Kings and Queens of England
Steppes of Russia
Wheatfields of Canada
There was nothing of our landscape there
Nothing about us at all

When writers began to react negatively to being written out of the lit-
erature and to being represented entirely by English, the language of
their formal but not of their intimate motions, they sought ways of
including the sound of a local and authentic voice in what they wrote.
Different writers achieved this in different ways. Very few chose to
write exclusively in the creoles, popular languages born of the interac-

University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.


tion between the African languages of the slaves and the European
languages of the planters. Louise Bennett of Jamaica, among the women,
stands out for having written in Jamaican Creole (JC) from the forties,
when she began, right up to the present. Today Bennett tends to be
regarded as a "performance" poet, which means that her verse is meant
to be performed, spoken before an audience, not read in a quiet inter-
change between reader and text.
Other writers have written predominantly in English but have used
varying means to achieve a satisfactory JC flavour. This paper illus-
trates how Lorna Goodison and Olive Senior, Jamaican women writing
predominantly in English, write themselves, their culture, their iden-
tity into their work by exploiting the dual linguistic heritage.
One of the advantages of writing in an environment where the offi-
cial language is related to the popular creole is the possibility of using
the same word or the same phrase with different meanings because
the closest relationship between the languages is at the level of Lexi-
con. So for example the title of this paper "To us all flowers are roses,"
which is the title of Lorna Goodison's 1995 collection of poems means
in English (at a metaphorical level) that all flowers are as valuable as
roses are, but in Jamaican Creole it means (at a very literal level) that
the term "rose" may be used to describe all flowers. So that a rose
garden need not have any roses at all. The following quotation from a
farewell speech on the campus of a tertiary institution supports the
point made in Goodison's line. The worker who was chosen to give the
gift to the outgoing principal's wife said, "Though as we know Miss L...
like roses we give ar this Orchid," which translates: "Because we know
that Mrs. L...likes roses we are presenting her with this orchid." The
title of one of my own collections of short fiction is Considering Woman
which in English has woman as object to be considered, that is, thought
about. In JC she is subject and the present participle/adjective "con-
sidering" describes her attitude. So "Considering Woman" becomes
"Woman, a thinking (considering) person." The reader who does not
understand JC has access to one meaning, the bilingual reader has
access to at least two.
What is important here is that the JC speaker is continually being
identified as a vital (and vibrant) part of the Jamaican man/woman
scape although the writing is mostly in English. The breach, which
Senior's poem quoted at the beginning of this paper identifies, is being
constantly repaired in the new writing. As an example let us examine
briefly the opening lines of an exquisite short Goodison poem "0 love
you so fear the dark" (1988:48):


O love, you so fear the dark
you so accustomed to fighting...

Line two might be read in English with a stress on "you," making it a
repetition of the form in line one. But it might also be read as a JC line
with a shortened "you" and a shortened "so." It then becomes "you so
accustomed) to fighting." The phonological change carries with it not
only a change of rhythm but a change of grammar. Each language rep-
resents a different persona. The overlap of identities is signified by the
overlap of linguistic systems.
The Caribbean (in this case Jamaican) language situation is com-
plex. The relationship that sociolinguistics identifies between language
and class in the situation is sometimes too simple and imprecise. The
"high" language, English, is said to be the language of the upper and
middle classes while the "low" language, Jamaican Creole, is said to be
the language of the other. But there is nothing cut and dried about it.
JC speakers speak "up" in certain formal situations. Not all of them
achieve English; some achieve a code somewhere between JC and Eng-
lish. And all classes tend to relax in JC. Code-switching, code-sliding
and code-mixing are part of the reality of day to day Jamaican life. The
super/subordinate relationship between English and JC however al-
lows class distinctions to be made in writing, through the manipula-
tion of the languages.
When this complex language situation is represented effectively,
several Jamaican selves may be identified, each using a code that is
different in some respects from the others. In an earlier paper,
"Mothertongue Voices in the writing of Olive Senior and Lorna
Goodison" (Pollard 1991), I discussed at length, code-switching in
Goodison's "Ocho Rios II." I commented then that "the rendering of
complex behaviours and the sound of complex voices in a single state-
ment by the deft manipulation of lexicon and syntax is... Goodison's major
contribution to Caribbean literature" (1991:248). I still consider that poem
the finest example of the representation of the complex language situa-
tion. There the voice of the Rastaman is distinct from the voice of the
peasant farmer, which in turn is distinct from that of the first person
(middle-class?) narrator. The same mixing of languages is accomplished
if somewhat less dramatically in one of Senior's earlier poems. "City
Poem"(1985) recalls an inner-city street where a middle-class young
woman walks with some terror as young men call out to her:

hello hello.miss.psst psst.


The first person narrative voice comments,

but I cannot answer: The Age of Anxiety
alas, is still very much alive

In parenthesis there is the comment,

(And if you taught me to speak
with your words would I touch
could I reach beyond the collapse
of garbage cans in hungry streets?)

The next movement in that poem describes a terrible day in the
lives of the very citizens who people the hungry streets. A bulldozer
came to destroy homes (shacks to outsiders) to facilitate the building
of lower income houses. A woman describes her own reaction and the
more extreme reaction of her friend Mavis:

Wen de bulldoza come a back-a-wall
we jus pick up all we have an all
we have is children an we leave
Mavis doan wan leave Mavis aksin
why why why A seh Mavis
move fus aks question las
di ting out dere bigger yu
an it caan talk...

The poem continues in English asking the rhetorical question:

did you damage
the statue
of the National hero?

and responds,

-Because I have plenty damage
inside me. (66)

All the selves represented here are female (except for the male calling
"psst psst"). English however represents the concerned middle class,
Creole the suffering female self.


The use of Caribbean creoles has received some attention in liter-
ary commentary on Caribbean writing. But it remains true that English
is the more widely used language in the creative work issuing from the
region. The judicious use of the creole word or phrase however con-
tinually ensures a Caribbean sense in any piece. The Creole flavour of
a whole poem for example may rest in a single word.
Let me identify two of the JC grammatical features which frequently
appear in these predominantly "English" literary environments. The
verb "to be," perhaps the most commonly used verb in English, does
not always have an equivalent in JC. See, for example, "mi cold"/ I am
cold, "mi vex" / I am angry, "yu tuu fuul"/ you are too stupid" where the
predicate adjective translates the English verb "to be"+ adjective. But
that "absence" (sometimes described as zero copula) does not get in
the way of comprehension of the intended meaning by the speaker of
English who does not also speak JC. So, for example, the persona in
Senior's "Meditation on Yellow," speaking for the historically conscious
local "I" serving tourists (modern Columbuses) at that time but due to
move from "kitchen to front verandah," one day comments wryly:

So I serving them
red-stripe beer
sensimilla (1994:15)

and says of her/himself, "I not quarrelsome...I tired now...." Later the
"I" suggests that tourists cannot catch the Caribbean rhythm:

(for you have to born
with that) [.]

Perhaps the most outstanding grammatical feature of all Creoles is
the unmarked verb. The base form of the verb (used in English with
"to" for the infinitive) is the commonly used form. No tense indication
is contained there. The form is the same for yesterday today and to-
morrow. But while the use of this feature ensures the creole presence
it does not affect comprehension by the non creole speaker.
Note how in the poem "To us, all flowers are roses" Goodison mixes
English verb marked for tense with Creole unmarked verb in a charac-
teristic sentence. Writing about the names of flowers she mentions


A strong young breeze that just takes
these names like blossoms and waltz
them around, turn and wheel them on the tongue
(1995: 69)

After the initial marked verb "takes," all others are unmarked. Rein-
forcing the Creole sensibility in this instance is the fact that "wheel
and turn" is a phrase from a local folksong which asks,

Wha mek yu da wiil an tun mi [why are you wheeling and turning me]

Later in the same poem Goodison writes that a cargo of slaves landed
free because

somebody sign a paper even as they
rode as cargo shackled on the high seas

Ensuring the presence of the Creole speaker while writing in English
is Goodison's special skill. I have written elsewhere that Goodison is a
great manager of the code mixing that is a commonplace in Jamaican
speech. Other critics have commented on the extraordinary manipu-
lation of language in this poetry [see for example Mordecai (1981),
Baugh (1986), Chamberlain (1993)]. What I want to highlight at this
point is her skill in using a single word to invoke the Creole sensibility.
"My will" (1986:19) is a poem written entirely in English. It is a cata-
logue of wishes from a mother for important spiritual (non-material)
good things for a son. Near the end of the third of five stanzas she
writes: "may you never know HUNGRY" (my emphasis). It is easy to
miss the fact that the expected abstract noun "hunger" is replaced by
the adjective "hungry." In JC the form used for the adjective in English
does the function of both adjective and adverb. The substitution of
that one word for the expected other immediately raises the wish to
the level of a benediction from an old and wise woman in a traditional
community. And this is in keeping with the image of the lines immedi-
ately before it when she wishes for her son inter alia,

...the right to call
all older than you
Miss, mister or mistress
in the layered love of our
simplest ways ...


Let us revisit the title poem of the 1995 collection from which I have
taken the title of this essay. It is unashamedly an "insider" poem, a
poem for people of a particular cultural and linguistic community. Yet
it is written in such a way that the reader from outside can understand
it. After all the language is English. It begins by proclaiming the Akan
ancestry to which many Jamaicans are heir: "Accompong is Ashanti."
Accompong is the name of a place, a maroon settlement, as the poem
goes on to tell:

...maroons dwell in dense places
deep mountainous, well-sealed
strangers unwelcome. Me no send you no come ...

That last is a place name too: "Me no send you no come." It means the
same thing as "strangers unwelcome" of the preceding sentence. At
least the sense is the same, for it translates "If I don't send for you, do
not come." The one who is inside will determine when the other, who
is outside, should arrive: "Do not come until I send for you." And eve-
rywhere in this poem insider information is interspersed with general
information, the former indicated by carefully selected, heavily
weighted JC sounds.
In a catalogue of Jamaican place names, in an environment of Eng-
lish, an alternative pronunciation is suggested for just one name: "hola
Mount Zion" as opposed to the more conventional "Holy Mount Zion."
This single item invokes, for those who recognize it, not simply JC but
the drums of Rastafari:

...It is Holy here, Mount Moses
dew falls upon Mount Nebo, south of Jordan,
Mount Nebo, rises here too hola Mount Zion high (71)

(The "hola" is written in lower case suggesting that a pun on it is pos-
sibly intended. The English "whole of" does become "hola" in JC). That
"hola Mount Zion" is a line from a rendition of Rastafari chanting and
allows the inclusion of that other theology in a string of place names
invoking the Christian religion.
The final and personal affirmation of that poem introduces within
an English sentence a Jamaican word whose meaning is highly spe-
cific. If you know it you understand the pride in being a Jamaican that
these words proclaim in this case a free woman, a daughter of slaves
from Jamaica:


...I was born at Lineen -
Jubilee!- on the anniversary of Emancipation Day.
I recite these names in a rosary, speak them
when I pray, for Heartease, my Mecca, aye Jamaica (71)

The public maternity hospital in Kingston, the Victoria Jubilee, named
for that queen, is lovingly called Lineen in a euphonious pronunciation
of "lying-in" which is the state of woman waiting to give birth. The "I"
of the poem was born in that place on the anniversary of the Emanci-
pation of slaves -the first of August. She prays for peace which here,
as in many other Goodison poems, is located in a physical/literal and
metaphorical place "Heartease," a place as highly valued as Mecca was
in early world history. This is an insider poem, but it allows any out-
sider who can read English to enter it at a certain level.
In the chapter "Re-Membering the Marooned Consciousness" of the
critical work Defining Jamaican Fiction: Marronage and the Discourse of
Survival, Barbara Lalla writes of the "secret encoding of Creole
epistemes under guise of conformity (and with all the advantages of
international 'legibility')" and labels it "the most subtle of the linguis-
tic transgressions that constitute the verbal dimension of marronage"
(198). This is one way of describing the doublespeak that is contained
throughout this particular Goodison poem:

"To us, all flowers are ROses"
"To us all flowers are roSES"

Jennifer Rahim (1999:69) discussing representations of the tropics in
Senior's Gardening in the Tropics and Goodison's To us, all flowers are
roses writes:

The idea that Caribbean poetry is an enterprise of the recovery and,
therefore the re-presentation of the people and the spaces they in-
habit, remains pertinent given the ongoing dialogue of Caribbean lit-
erature with history and identity.

It is in this kind of manipulation of language that the cause to which
Rahim refers, is most effectively served.



Baugh, Edward. 1986. "Goodison on the Road to Heartease." Journal of
West Indian Literature, vol.1 no.1.
Chamberlin, J.Edward. 1993. Come Back To Me My Language: Poetry
and the West Indies. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto.
Goodison, Lorna. 1986.1 am becoming my mother. New Beacon Books,
.1988. Heartease. New Beacon Books, London.
.1992. Selected Poems. University of Michigan Press, Michigan.
.1995. To us all flowers are roses. University of Illinois
Hodge, Merle. 1970. Crick Crack Monkey. Andre Deutsch, London.
Lalla, Barbara. 1996. Defining Jamaican Fiction.Univ. of Alabama
Pollard, Velma. 1989. Considering Woman. The Women's Press, London.
.1991. "Mothertongue Voices in the Writing of Olive Senior and
Lorna Goodison." In Motherlands. Susheila Nasta ed. The Womenn's
Press, London.
Mordecai, Pamela. 1981. "Wooing with words, some comments on the
poetry of Lorna Goodison." Jamaica Journal, No.45.
Rahim, Jennifer. 1999. "From Archaeology to Iconography: The Tropics
in Senior's Gardening in the Tropics and Goodison's To Us, All Flowers
are Roses.
Senior, Olive. 1985. Talking of Trees. Calabash Publshers, Kingston.
1994. Gardening in the Tropics. McClelland and Stewart,

From the Depths of Anxiety Valley to the
Pinnacle of Heartease Mountain:
Lorna Goodison's Poetry of Release

Dannabang Kuwabong*

In The Repeating Island, Antonio Benitez-Rojo asserts that the "pano-
rama of beliefs that the African slaves introduced into the Carib-
bean, ... not only went into the forming of supersyncretic cults ...
but [also] ... had as well a decisive influence upon spheres that are
quite distinct from the strictly cultural" (159). This phenomenon, he
argues, is clearly demonstrated in diverse areas of Caribbean life such
as cultural productions, religions, commerce, medicine, sciences, art,
social and political relationships, and eating habits (159). Benitez-Rojo
postulates, therefore, that no serious study of the Caribbean can dis-
count the residual strengths of the submerged African-derived spiritu-
ality. Similarly, Barry Chevannes writes, "[t]he most central institution
to the tradition of resistance in Jamaica has been religion. Whether
resistance through the use of force, or ... through symbolic forms such
as language, folk-tales and proverbs, or ... through the creation of al-
ternative institutions, religion was a main driving force among Jamai-
can peasants" (1). He goes on to argue that even with the attainment of
political independence, "religion still flourishes as the guardian of public
and private morality" (2). For example, Joseph Murphy writes that
Myalism in Jamaica from around the 17th century was not just an Afri-
can-derived initiation rite into a fellowship for purposes of racial re-
construction and recovery in the face of slavery. It also encoded the
ceremonial rituals and systems of beliefs in which the slaves against
European obeah and brutality constructed acts of r s;istance. Myalism
was then "concerned not only with social control, but also with the

*University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras


development of a spiritual sensitivity and empowerment.... [by bring-
ing about a ] revelation of the invisible world" (117-122) where present
sufferings will be ended by an Africentric Christ. Also, Murphy (114-
144) writes that Revival in Jamaica began to be noticed in the 1860s
but had been a secret practice among African slaves from the 1700s.
Revival borrows heavily from the ritual traditions of African religions
but is cloaked in the ceremonial garb of Euro-Christian ritual. This made
it possible for Africaribbeans to appropriate stories in the Bible, proph-
ets, and prophetesses as their ancestors in faith to secretly reconstruct
and practice their African heritage without drawing the wrath of the
slave master. Jean Besson arrives at a similar conclusion in "Religion
as Resistance in Jamaican Peasant Life: The Baptist Church, Revival
World View and Rastafari Movement" (43-76).
Subsequently, it is important to turn to Lorna Goodison's African-
derived spiritual roots if we hope to clearly understand the symbols
of her rhetoric of recovery. Like the legendary heroes of slave rebel-
lions in the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica, such as Toussaint
L'Ouverture, Takyi, Nanny, Sam Sharpe, and Paul Bogle, who engaged
their African-derived spirituality to unify the people to resist slavery,
Goodison's poetic of healing derives its symbolic power to unify her
people against neo-colonial zombification in her Heartease poems.
Generally, Goodison's Heartease poems are interlaced with the nuances
of Revival language of healing and wholeness. For example, when she
asserts in "Heartease III" that "I come only to apply words/to a sore
and confused time" (38), we detect the tone of the prophet/healer of-
ten claimed by leaders of Revival churches. This placing of Goodison
in the role of prophet/healer can be justified, not only through an ex-
amination of the language of the poem, but also through a study of the
range of possibilities offered by the speaking voice in the poem. For
instance, the recipe of herbal remedies and rituals for healing that form
the foundation of the poem is normally associated with Revival heal-
ing services as described by Barry Chevannes in "Introducing the Na-
tive Religions of Jamaica" (4). Goodison's items for her ritual of heal-
ing include "wild bees honey," "search-me-heart extract," "a bun-pan,"
to boil the mixture in, and "sweet wood" with which to make the fire.
Through this ritual, the evil spirit of Caribbean history that causes
what Gloria Anzaldua calls "mental nepantilism, an Aztec word mean-
ing torn between ways" (561), and the construction of an attitude of
self-denigration will be purged from the place, giving room for a new
dawn, provided they share the healing solution with each other (38).
In other words, Goodison's Heartease poems call with love to the


sections of Africaribbean communities that are still reeling from the
blows of distorted sensibilities caused by their forced dislocation and
dis-articulation, as a result of their historical transportation from Af-
rica, and their subsequent transplantation, enslavement, and coloni-
zation in the Caribbean. These distortions continue to cause psycho-
emotional instabilities and consequently drive Africaribbean people
toward the edge of amnesia, psychosis, and violence. It is to rectify
these distortions that Goodison engages her active imagination and
consciousness to move through time and space, and to enter into the
collective memory of Africaribbeans in order to awaken the dormant
energies in their collective and individual memories toward healing.
Thus, in the first quarter of the moon in "Some Nights I Don't Sleep"
(25), she meditates on how she can help her people to lift "the legacy
of stone" and prepare them for the quarter of healing in which she will
lead a service with "sankey to bide-up / the broken of the dispossessed
/ who are now eating garbage" (25). Sankeys are songs of lamentation,
worship, and praise written by Ira D. Sankey. At Revival meetings, writes
Chevannes, "the second part of the ritual is distinguished by sankeys,
which are 'tracked' (that is read line by line) by the secretary and sung
with slow, mournful stress" (5).
In linking herself to Ira D. Sankey, Goodison claims a spiritual de-
scent and continuity of the spirit of recuperation through atonement
and collective reconciliation in song and poetry. Like Sankey's dirges
of worship, Goodison's poems of Heartease become both a medium
and a ritual of reconnection between Africaribbeans and the memory
cells of their submerged spiritual spaces. In these memory cells,
Goodison is able to "create, remember, and imagine, and to apply [her]
imagination for the benefit of the community" (Som6 36). Hence,
through the ritual fluidity of her craft, Goodison guides her people away
from the alluring treacheries of adversarial rhetoric. This ritual fluid-
ity provides the compass with which she directs the steps of the peo-
ple out of the depths of "Anxiety Valley" to the summit of Heartease
crescent. She claims that her mission on this earth is "to be the
sojourner poet carolling for peace / calling lost souls to the way of
Heartease" ("Heartease in New England 1987," Heartease 41) out of the
depth of Anxiety Valley.
Anxiety Valley, Goodison's poems seem to suggest, is the persistent
hangover from the history of slavery in which Africaribbean people
continue to live. There seems to be only darkness in Anxiety Valley,
which "is the fallout from the shadow / and the fear combined, explod-
ing" ("In Anxiety Valley" 30). This darkness creates an atmosphere of


panic from which the stranded Africaribbean pilgrim must necessarily
escape: "I have to get out of here / I have to get out of here / before the
next plague comes" (31). The darkness originates in the plagues of
falsehoods, "the false consciousness / the teachings in the church / of
every man for himself" (25). In living surrounded by darkness,
Africaribbeans unconsciously buried their hopes "too long / as the
anchor to our / navel strings" (35). Consequently, this calls for the
development of a "sankofa" ideology to enable Africaribbeans to re-
connect with their African selves in order to deal with the crisis of
both their personal and collective identities and purposes.
Patrice Malidoma Som6 sums this up succinctly when he states that
any "crisis of identity and purpose" is always traceable to "an inner
burning" (27) that can neither be extinguished by a paid visit to a psy-
chotherapist nor career-planning counselor, nor banished in the abun-
dance of material wealth or educational certification. Similarly, W. Van
Wetering reaches a similar conclusion in her study of ritual therapy
among Surinamese women (221-25) through recourse to the ritual be-
liefs and practices of their African-based spirituality. In line with these
observations, healing in Goodison's poetic can be said to include the
spiritual dimension, recognized and ritualized by Africaribbean com-
munities in which the individual's "innate gifts are approved, acknowl-
edged, and confirmed" (Som6 27). This is the reason behind Goodison's
boldness when she asserts that her project endeavors to "join-up / a
mantra / to contain" (25) these falsehoods. That mantra through which
she seeks to transcend "their twisted anthem" (25) lies in love, "for
love is everything" (25). Love radiates the basic tenets, the underlying
force, and the energy of Africaribbean spirituality that is rooted in com-
munalism. This explains Goodison's own recognition that she cannot
succeed without her community: I am part of a grouping of many
souls and galaxies / I am part of something ever evolving, familiar and
most / mighty" ("Heartease in New England 1987" 41).
Goodison's birth in the 1940s coincided with the rising acceptance
of Africaribbean spirituality, even if for purely political purposes in
those decades of independence movements. The politicians recognized
the galvanizing nature of that spirituality. Subsequently, both Michael
Manley and Edward Seaga engaged it to marshal the people behind
them in their struggle to wrest power from Europe. Thus, Goodison
learnt about the potential of Africaribbean spirituality for mental lib-
eration. She shows in the Heartease poems that post-emancipation and
post-independent Africaribbeans have become conscious of the latent


realities of their African-derived selves. Some feverishly now "root at"
"the burying spot" to uncover "our hope" (35). However, the search
must be guided by a spirituality that is revealed through Africaribbean
cultural paradigms. Therefore, Goodison advises against human-made
programs of recuperation, especially economic programs such as SAP
(Structural Adjustment Program), normally prescribed by the IMF,
World Bank, The Group of 8, CARICOM, and NAFTA. Such programs of
recovery, writes Goodison, are "red conscience money" (Heartease III"
38), and, therefore, descendants of the epistemology and profits of
neocolonialism, slavetocracy, plantocracy, and the ancient rites of
European imperialism. They disregard the influences of the nascent
African-based spirituality of Caribbean people and its regulatory roles
in their communal rituals and ethos of being. Thus, the programs, well
meaning as they may appear, most of the time, terminate abruptly in
confusion, violence, and bloodshed. Such is the "spider's direction,"
writes Goodison, and consequently, "each day finds us further away"
from recovery ("Heartease I" 32). To avoid this kind of backward
progress, she counsels that Caribbean people must develop the art of
discernment and prophecy. They need to "go inna interpretation / and
believe the flat truth / left to dry on our tongues" (32). The rationale
for the development of the art of discernment and prophecy are em-
bedded in her critique of the use of economic indexing to measure
levels of happiness and development. Goodison echoes the biblical
injunction not to lay our treasures on earth in her claim that the rough
journey to Heartease "cannot hold in a measure / it say travel light /
you are the treasure" (32). Put differently, Goodison rejects the theory
that real happiness is measured in the heaps of material "garbage"
acquired by one as formulated in the modern myth of development.
Rather, Heartease distance is to be seen as an innerscape of peace and
These words introduce the concept of journeying out of Anxiety
Valley to a sacred space. Consequently, what Goodison, like other
Africaribean writers, seeks is "space in her thinking, a place of possi-
bility ... a place of making a choice, ... so that [her] eyes reflect all the
light [she has] drawn into [herself] and [does not] envy anybody any-
thing because all [her] needs) is inside [her] . ." (Baby Mother 59).
Reaching this possibility through poetry can be very precarious,
Chamberlin writes, "when the dominions of hope and hate divide the
land" (153-154). However, Goodison does not allow the genii of anger
to distort, deregulate, and disarticulate her vision. She, therefore, con-


centrates all her impulses and spirit energies on negotiating her way
out of the mazes between reaction poetics engendered in personal in-
security, and the constructive poetics of self-worth and confidence. As
Anzaldua has convincingly argued, "it is not enough to stand on the
opposite bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white con-
ventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and op-
pressed ... both are reduced to a common denominator of violence"
(561). This is not what Goodison's poetic of heartease reaches for. It
aims at a new consciousness in order to heal the split between the two
opposite banks which will enable the Africaribbean person to perceive
through the "serpent and the eagle" (562). Anzaldua concludes that
post-combat possibilities of healing are numerous. Thus, for Goodison,
the Africaribbean needs to overcome the limitations of her combative
rhetoric and seize these possibilities to create what Marlene Nourbese
Philip calls the potential for new regenerative i-mages creation (14-16),
which will ultimately then free the energy for the redemptive loosen-
ing of "the salt cords / binding our tongues" in order to release "grace
rains, shower / and water the hope flower" ("Songs of Release II" Se-
lected Poems 78).
In another sense, the journey to Heartease pinnacle cannot be un-
dertaken while the pilgrim is burdened by any emotional turbulence
generated by the negative forces of historical anger. That is, there are
preconditions before levitation out of Anxiety Valley can occur. These
are Love and Forgiveness. Through Love and Forgiveness, it is possi-
ble to exorcize and dissociate the suffering self from all negativity. To
say this in no way implies that Goodison sees Love as signifying the
absence of "justified and holy anger" against the history of oppres-
sion. Forgiveness does not also imply forgetting. Nonetheless, within
Goodison's poetic of healing, Love and Forgiveness are the best-honed
machetes with which to cut loose the negative cultural, ideological,
and linguistic threads that bind Africaribbean personalities to the limi-
tations of an historical past. Moreover, Love and Forgiveness entail
certain communal impulses which initiate the ritual spaces) for heal-
ing. These spaces exist in what Goodison calls "the starting over side,"
where the cycles of their historical negation, having gone full circle,
enable them to "meet ourselves" and effectively to "bury this bitter-
ness / with green bush / never to rise again" (26). Here, Goodison ech-
oes the Rastafarian concept of the healing power of nature (Chevanness
"New Approaches to Rastafari" 8) in the imagery of vegetation. She
thus begs her people to give a chance to "the undivided healing tree /
to make black pepper grains / blow easy in the doctor breeze"(26).


Specifically, the healing sought is collective, and it originates in all
Caribbean peoples' "collective light / as laser beams / to clear the
home stretch / to Heartease" (26). The healing tree refers physically
to the kapok or silk cotton tree found in both West African savannah
cultures and in the Caribbean under which religious rituals are per-
formed, and symbolically to what Edward Chamberlin calls the "legacy
of hope out of the depths of despair in which they [Africaribbean peo-
ple] found themselves" (55). The healing tree could refer to the silk-
cotton tree, sometimes referred to as "God tree" under which Myal
practitioners reaffirmed their humanity and sought through magic to
disrupt the effects of slavery on their psyches through transcendent
dances (Murphyll 18-122). John Rashford has traced the origins of the
importance of this tree to the spiritual realm in Jamaica. He writes that
from all available evidence, the silk-cotton tree is regarded in Jamaica,
St. Croix, Surinam, Guyana, and probably the whole Caribbean, as it is
in West Africa, as "a spiritual tree that in some cases is regarded as
"sacred' and in other cases is associated with evil" (55-56). Beliefs sur-
rounding the tree indicate that it is a sanctuary of both ancestral spir-
its and of duppies. Taboos and rituals surrounding its cutting and plant-
ing in many places all indicate its connection to Africaribbean spiritu-
ality. Believers assembled to worship African deities through dance,
song, spirit possession, prophecy, in order to enter into the spiritual
modes in which deliverance and healing can be carried out (49). The
healing tree also recalls the white pole which "runs from the floor to
the ceiling, branching out at the top into three sections, each of which
holds a flag in one of the Ethiopian colors: red, green, or gold. At the
very top of the pole, a white flag surmounts the others ... the red sym-
bolizes the blood of Christ, the green, health and happiness, the gold,
the lost wealth of Africa; and the white, the purity and peace which
must stand at the center" (Murphy 132). The tree of life, which is also
sometimes referred to as Wisdom in the Christian Bible, enables
Africaribbeans to practice their rituals in the process of re-mapping
their worldview.
Re-mapping, as a dynamic restitution and restoration of a
destabilized personhood, is not physical but psycho-emotional and
spiritual. Love and Forgiveness are the basic tools in re-mapping, and
they help to prevent restitution from issuing forth from retributive
anger, but allows it to be generated from bisociation, and a reparative
symbiosis of positive feelings, rituals, and symbols, in which histori-
cal experiences and perceptual distortions are reconciled in what
Goodison calls the "flat truth." Restoration, in this case, transcends


the simplicity of any ideological or physical endeavor. It enters into
the spiritual realm of reconciliation. Reconciliation is possible through
collective reparative creativity, and for Goodison, that supersedes any
individual ontological insecurity. However, reparative creativity may
involve some aggressive posturing, assimilative re-appropriation, or
abrogation in order to "un-construct" the discourse of negation from
slavery to modern neocolonial states of dependency.
If slavery and its aftermath have created psycho-spiritual movements
toward amnesia or bitterness, it also has counter-generated what
Adrienne Rich calls "memory and connectedness against amnesia and
nostalgia" (144-145), when just "breaking the silences, telling [their]
tales is not enough" (146). Breaking the silence for Goodison involves
taking on the "historical responsibility ... [of the shaman/poet which]
places the weight of existence [of the community] on the line"(146).
Breaking the silence also indicates that the individual poet is prepared
to "cast [her] lot with others, [and] move from an individual conscious-
ness to a collective one" (146), even if such a poet, like Goodison, writes
from a society with a highly-developed positive and majoritarian sense
of self. Goodison implies this when she tells Anne Walmsley that no
person of African descent in Jamaica grows up with the "image of be-
ing a minority ... [or] thinks) in terms of being a minority" (51), and
therefore, in terms of being silenced.
The existence of this positive and majoritarian consciousness, of
course, does not diminish the implications of the type of articulatory
mode(s) Goodison chooses. Rather, it helps her to develop that poetic
of Love and Forgiveness within a dynamic African-derived spirituality.
In a trance-like state, the poet proclaims, "I speak no judgement / this
voice is to heal / to speak possibility" ("Heartease III" 37). Her role of
seeking to nurture and to heal these broken souls, and empower them
with new visions for the trip to Heartease, complements the roles of
other healers who recover the mangled remains of the Africaribbean
psyche from European and Euro American historiographies.
But what is Heartease Mountain to the Africaribbean? Does Heartease
Mountain refer to one or all of the three geophysical locations situated
in the remote hilly countryside of Jamaica? Is it merely analogical of
"places on the island with names such as Tranquility and Content," or
an allegory of what Edward Baugh reads as "rural folkways, the simple
strength of peasant values, ... and the peacefulness of hill-country life"
(13)? Definitely, the word Heartease refers to all of these, but Baugh
does not go far enough in his analysis of the metaphors of meaning
beyond these external realities. Heartease, be it a geophysical loca-


tion or a conceptual frame of reference, connotes the motif of an inter-
nal journey. Reaching Heartease implies then a circuitous journey un-
dertaken to domesticate the otherwise nomadic psycho-spiritual ex-
istence of the Africaribbean person. This journey to Heartease Moun-
tain is an ongoing project of historical reclamation and cultural recon-
struction. It envisions collaborative efforts through a judicious com-
bating of the negative consequences of historical translocation from
Africa. This historical reconstruction is the moral authority from which
to begin. The cultural reclamation is validated by the nascent psycho-
spiritual Mundi of Africa, which guaranteed the survival of translocated
Africans in the Caribbean. The two combine to form the moral agency
that endorses the journey to Heartease. One thing is certain. That jour-
ney, for Goodison, does not imply a physical relocation to Africa, as
"Heartease distance / cannot hold in a measure" ("Heartease I,"
Heartease 32). Rather, it represents the spiritual and cultural transcend-
ence of the limitations of what Edouard Glissant defines as forced po-
etics, or undeveloped trickster's strategies of diversion and derision
engaged by slave/colonized communities in the Americas to subvert
European domination through linguistic pidginization and religious
syncretism (19-22).
Glissant is aware of the opprobrious nature of his position (20), vis-
A-vis postcolonial and marginality theorists' evacuation of such trick-
ster tactics of coded meanings to reclaim the identities of formerly
oppressed peoples. Glissant does not, therefore, dismiss these strate-
gies outright. His problem with them arises where "diversion" becomes
an end in itself, and not a means to an end. Thus, what Glissant argues
for is the process of conversion of these diversions, be they cultural,
spiritual, or linguistic, into "productive and responsible" methods of
recuperation rather than merely for signifying or styling (21). Luckily
for Goodison, Africaribbean cultural production, as Benitez-Rojo has
shown, has managed to grow beyond the limitations of diversion and
succeeded in breaking through colonial codes of rejection. These cul-
tural productions have thus provided Goodison with provisional foun-
dations on which to build her own brand of an "overcoming" poetic of
transcendence over despair, and to move from there to a dreamscape
of healing.
Goodison's definition of the path to Heartease neither originates in
diversion nor in a parallacticc displacement" of hopelessness (16).
Rather it gestates and is nurtured in a communal desire for comrade-
ship, atonement, healing, and finally, release. Using the Rastafarian as
cultural icon, Goodison defines the path to Heartease as entailing the


ideals of migratory Revivalism or Rastafarianism. The road to Heartease
is "The Road of the Dread." (Tamarind Season 23). It is both a spiritual
and a cultural path, which strikes dread into the heart of the oppres-
sor. But it is a lonely road to travel. Therefore, success on the road
means a coalition of individual gifts. As Goodison advises, "when yu
meet another traveler / who have flour and yu have water and man
and man / make bread together" (Tamarind Season 23). The breaking
of bread with fellow pilgrims facilitates the sharing of the agony of
rejection and loneliness, at the same time it consecrates the ideologi-
cal frame of the new vision in which cultural similarities are stressed,
and the unification of shared motives striven for. Sharing signifies an
expansion of the victories won against individualism and Negrophobia,
while emphasizing the continuation of the ever-transfiguring
Africaribbean spiritual traditions from Myal to Rastafari. The strategy
of mobility to Heartease must be communally and culturally engen-
dered. It cannot artificially be grafted from an external source onto
what Baugh calls the "archetypal reality in Jamaican folk conscious-
ness" (14). But should it even emanate externally, it must still be medi-
ated through the voice of the community's poet, who is both the new
creator of i-mages for the rituals, strategies, and spiritual impulses of
the community, a performance role Glissant refers to as reflecting "the
prophetic vision of the past" (64).
Goodison claims this agency and role in a conversation with Denise
Narrain De Caires. She confesses that Tamarind Season is a lamenta-
tion "about a lot of things ... about myself, about other women, about
Jamaica, about the world in my own small way"(20). In that interview,
Goodison further states that" ... in IAm Becoming My Mother I felt I had
been given this job to correct some things, to write down those things,
to tell stories for people, their truth, their versions ... and so on" (20).
But it is in her Heartease collection that she really enters into these
truths and dreams of the people. In "I Shall Light A Candle To Under-
standing In Thine Heart Which Shall Not Be Put Out" (Heartease 7),
Goodison unequivocally asserts her claim as the harbinger of the light
of hope, the leader of their revival, who also has healing powers: "I
shall light a candle of understanding"(7) in order to "lay to rest the
wounded past, . ."(7). Her conviction is expressed strongly through
the urgent desire to "exit, death and fear and doubt" and transplant
"love and possibility" (7) through forgiveness. The ritual lighting of
candles opens the way to convene and convey new elements with which
a new covenant of love and possibility is entered into, between the
community and the spirit world of the ancestors. The ritual includes


an invocation to "loose the long knotted hemp / dragging the old story
/ the rotted history" ("Songs of Release" 13), so that what causes them
to "speak blood / curbing the vowels of possibility" can be transfig-
ured into something that will "release grace rains, shower / and water
the hope flower" (13). Here also is the subtle allusion to the ritual of
lighting candles in what is known in Revivalism as "the balm yard," in
other words, the residence of a Revival leader who is known to also
possess the gift of healing (Chevannes 4).
I suggested earlier that the preconditions for a fruitful journey to
Heartease include Love and Forgiveness. I want now to return to the
issue of Forgiveness. The capacity to forgive originates in merciful cour-
age, even if that appears to be accommodating the aggressor's designs.
I do not want to imply that forgiveness is analogous to ideological sub-
mission to defeat. Rather, forgiveness in this context is a technique of
undermining the system through subtlety. First, forgiveness involves
self-exorcism to drive out the genii of bitterness. This enables the indi-
vidual to then cultivate "the search-mi-heart [and] / acres of sincerity
grass ..." thus enabling the individual or group to turn the "face to-
wards Heartease" ("Heartease II" 34). Without forgiveness, one cannot
overcome the horrors of the past.
But what Goodison canvasses is that when we forgive we are able to
set "out a wash pan and catch mercy rain / forget about drought, catch
the mercy rain" so that one can be purified in its cleansing water. The
act of purification detoxifies and invalidates the negative epistemol-
ogy against her people. She then re-codes the detoxified epistemology
with positive i-mages and turns it into the emblem of powerful self-
articulation: to speak healing and "invoke transmutation / ... [and] rains
of redemption"("A Forgiveness" 10) to and for her people. In thus ap-
propriating these formerly negative attributions, Goodison avoids the
rhetorical lures of the poetics of retribution and becomes an "initiate
of the order of grace / [and] keeper of the key of possibility" ("Be-
cause I Have Been Everything" 8). Forgiveness is thus the scaffolding
on which a positive self-and-community personhood is recuperated
through poetry. It engenders the ability to even love "the children of
salt / who left their brine on you / so you dream always of waterfalls"
("A Forgiveness"10). The image of salt or brine records the horrors of
the Middle Passage in Africaribbean history, which led the rejection of
salt first by slaves and now by Rastafarians in their cuisine, in spite of
the fact that slaves were forced to consume salted pork and fish by
their masters. Also, Africaribbean beliefs posed that salt diminished
their ability to fly back to Africa when they died.


Forgiveness is aligned also to the search for atonement. Without
atonement, Forgiveness cannot become the new path of light to direct
the footsteps of the pilgrims out of "what looked like the black-out last
week" to Heartease ("Heartease II" 34). This new path of light draws
other lights to itself to form a community of lights. Subsequently,
Goodison prophesies that when "... you are lit / ... that light will draw /
more light to itself" ("A Forgiveness" 10), and the community of lights
then overcomes the evil that prowls about in darkness. In this poem,
Goodison can be said to engage an esoteric language of ritual, a form
of glossolalia, as she moves through mystical states recognizably in
Sufism, Myal, and Revival. She beckons the pilgrim to "Bathe and catch
a light from this meteoric flame / and sit down cleansed, to tell a ro-
sary of your / ancestor's names" ("Heartease II" 34). The act of purifi-
cation, followed by the invocation of the ancestral spirits creates the
cosmic power that enables the pilgrim to bind and expel "all who work
evil downward through the night" (34). Following this exorcism of evil,
the tired poet falls into a trance-like sleep in which she gets fresh mes-
sages from the cosmic world. The sun puts its mark with "... azure/
rose / ribbon / taken from the hidden locks of dawn (34) on the poet.
This enables the poet to dream "the surrah of this message" (34) in
her sleep, and to be able to interpret the dream.
Dreams and visions are ideas heavily influenced by the mysticism in
Myal, Revival and Rastafari. The image of the veil, a symbol of
Africaribbean mental colonization, and its eventual lifting, leans heav-
ily towards Tagorean Sufism, but it also echoes with references to Myal,
Revival, and Rastafari ideology. The basic concepts and language of
dreams in Myalism manifest the role in religious initiation into
Africaribbean spirituality, and the potential this offers as a protective
rite against the hurt of slavery and colonialism. In Myal, the initiate
was/is able to dream what Goodison envisions in "Heartease II" (34)-
the lifting of the veil by the one who flung the meteor through the dark
night to light the path to Heartease. Spirit possession, an aspect of
African-derived spirituality, is also echoed by Goodison. The spirit that
possesses the priest/priestess is a combination of the biblical Holy
Spirit, a particular African ancestral spirit, and an African deity. Which-
ever one it is that takes possession of the priest(ess), the ultimate goal
of possession is to instruct her/him on the paths the community must
take towards liberation and healing. However, to be chosen by the spirit,
one has to be called by the spirit, and subsequently then journey in
the spirit, and finally travail in the spirit. In these spirit filled move-
ments, the rhythmic cycles of actions encompassing the triple worlds


of the temporal, the material, and the spiritual become merged. The
services are centred on a large urn of water, which Goodison trans-
lates as the "wash pan" that collects "mercy rain". Music, drumming,
dancing, and healing take place.
Goodison's spiritual collage and poetic of forgiving enable her to
transcend "the base betrayals / stamped with deceit"(10). These be-
trayals and deceits are reflected in racist and sexist ideologies held
dear and preached in Christianity, and believed by even those African-
derived religions in the Caribbean. Examples are the belief that woman
is innately evil (Richard D.E Burton 136-7, Chevannes 37, 121-4, J. P.
Homiac 140-2), and that a dark pigmentation is the result of sinfulness.
Corollary to this is the misguided notion that when an Africaribbean
goes to heaven, her skin will become lily white. Goodison, therefore,
marshals an arsenal of invocations, solicitations, and proof to wash,
heal ("Songs of Release" 12), and liberate the Africaribbean spirit from
those centuries' old wounds. She pours out a libation of words in wor-
ship, "Release me 0 redemption river / waters I have lately seen / for
my wanting to sight new Psalms" (12) and "to wash all hurt hearts
clean" (12). If the name of the river in the first lines is not known, in the
next lines, Goodison makes us aware that she is praying to the God-
desses of an African river-the Blue Nile-to unbindd her" (12).
This turning to her African nature gods is caused by a sudden reali-
zation that all her life she has been imprisoned by the language of prayer
in another culture whose God is a stern, imperial male God. As a neo-
phyte and an aspiring priestess in that other faith, what she seeks from
this God, whose word is used against her people, and to whom she
now comes for an explanation, is purification, vision, tongue, posses-
sion, and authority to reverse the effects of the manipulation of His
word against her people. Though she is not allowed to hold palaver
with this God, the experience at His gate is nonetheless still mystical,
celebratory, and libratory in its movements from an invocation of her
African heritage, through to an ecstatic vision encoded in Amharic.
The references to Rio Negro (a river in Jamaica), to Blue Nile (in Egypt,
Sudan and Ethiopia), and Amharic (the language of Ethiopia), all in-
sinuate a link of Goodison's spirituality to the continuum of Africa-
derived spirituality in the Caribbean. Her prayer interrogates past ef-
forts at recovery, and exposes their inarticulateness, myopia, and dis-
ruptiveness of the possibilities of real recovery.
In contrast to Goodison's way of recovery through love and forgive-
ness, past attempts at recovery have created only discourses of blood,
which cling to the "old story / the rotted history" ("Songs of Release"


Heartease 13). Subsequently, Goodison prays for a loosening of "the
salt cords / binding our tongues" ("Songs of Release" Selected Poems
78), which destroy the people's psychic and spiritual palates and pal-
ettes. The artifice needed to loosen the salt cords lies in the prophetic
gift to read the message coded in Amharic. This prophetic gift in deci-
phering the coded ancient language of Amharic is conditioned on love,
forgiveness, and an uplifting past. Furthermore, the gift is predicated
on a visionary acceptance of the submerged African roots in the Carib-
bean. The encoded language reveals a message of reunification and re-
humanization: "I think I'm concerned more with reunification than any-
thing else. I really feel that is the paramount task of humanity: things
have to be re-unified" (Goodison 233).
The spiritual journey to Heartease starts "In Anxiety Valley"(30), or
what is generally referred to as Moaning Ground. Moaning Ground is
the central courtyard in the churches of Spiritual Baptists, where re-
pentance begins during service. In Moaning Ground, there is always
loud lamentation. Anxiety Valley, to some mystics, is the dark/white
night of the soul. At this point, the mystic undertakes a journey of
reconnection and realignment with the source, and for Goodison, "what-
ever is going to reconnect me to the source is fine"(233). Goodison is
careful to differentiate between material darkness and situational dark-
ness. To come through situational darkness is not easy. For at heav-
en's gate of Euro-Christianity, God's white female receptionist uses
Goodison's naturally dark pigmentation to bar her from holding pa-
laver with a blanched patriarchal God. The receptionist makes her wait
indefinitely "where the dark matches my hair / and so they will mis-
take me / for a baldhead" (30). Ironically, the waiting is beneficial as it
yields answers to her wishes. She gets a vision of alternative ways to
reach God. God responds either "in silence / or responds to drums"
(31). Silence is a tactical response to denials of the self, imposed by
dominant power. Drum language, writes Velma Pollard in her review of
Heartease, is significantly located at the end of the poem to emphasize
the use of aural codes as a strategy in recovery poetics. It also vali-
dates and empowers the folk and unlettered Africaribbean use of drum
music as sacred/church music (92).
"In Anxiety Valley", therefore, Goodison receives a revelation that
Africaribbean drums, central to African and Africaribbean modes of
worship, also talk to God, and that God indeed listens and responds to
their communication. This revelation facilitates her initial steps directed
toward Heartease. "Heartease I"(32-33), then, is an initiatory journey
to recovery if several obstacles on the way, such as cultural blindness,


are overcome. Cultural blindness is epitomized in the people Goodison
describes as "we with the straight eyes / and no talent for cartogra-
phy"(32). Cartography implies an innate ability to decode the cultural
road maps embedded in Africaribbean language. Another obstacle is
the unbelief in the authenticity and authority of the people's cultural
narratives and natural histories. Without that belief, it is impossible to
synchronize and synthesize the images of darkness, light, and faith
and to turn them into the personal or communal visions and percep-
tions of Hope that propels the move toward "Heartease II". She writes
that in the darkness of their historical experience, light shines: "a me-
teorite burst from the breast of the sky / smoking like a censer, it spelled
out in / incandescent calligraphy" a simple and direct message, but
which can only be decoded by visionaries, or people "who had deep
eyes" (34). The message instructs those who set out for Heartease to
first cultivate group and personal appreciation: "cultivate the search-
mi-heart and / ... / face toward Heartease"(34).
In a combination of mystical steps that co-opt Africaribbean reli-
gious practices and rituals of purification, Goodison, the poet of rea-
lignment, becomes the oracle through whom a divinity speaks both to
remonstrate against and to comfort her people. She conjures atten-
tion through the magic of incantation to proclaim "the second sura of
this message" to her community. In vexation and frustration, this di-
vinity screams at the people. Where He thought is the most favoured
place to put Africaribbeans is not appreciated by them. They ... take
it and less count it" (34). In His exasperation, he shouts: "Look how
you root up my rarest blooms, / look how you take my flower bed dem
turn tombs, / look how you eye red from looking over a next one yard"
(34). God's annoyance with the Africaribbean people's attitude to His
plan for them is felt through the repeated words: "look how you." The
fact that God's gut feelings are expressed through incantation and in
Caribbean demotic shows that the road to Heartease does not lie only
in Received Pronunciation of the languages of the Caribbean from the
former and current emporiums.
Incantation is oral performance, and God uses its mystical attributes
in conjuring to cast a calming spell on His anger. Goodison here also
critiques millenarian Revivalists and Rastafarians, such as Bewardian
Revivalism, Leonard Perceval Howell, Claudius Henry and Marcus
Garvey, who preached for a physical relocation in Africa (Richard D. E.
Burton 115-155). In her critique, she endorses God's plan for
Africaribbeans to begin to accept the Caribbean as their permanent
home. Following the mollification of His anger, God establishes a new


covenant with the people in the Caribbean, showing them new rituals
that must be performed to ensure recovery and survival. This new
covenant guarantees the successful completion of the journey to
Heartease through an acceptance of the Caribbean as a good and per-
manent residence. The new ritual involves "catching mercy rain in zink
and tub pan" (35), a direct allusion to the water of life found in large
pans placed at the centre of Revival and Spiritual Baptists' Churches
throughout the Caribbean. In love and forgiveness, the tree of life, the
centre pole in Revival ceremonies, springs to life through the invoca-
tory power embedded in the panegyric dedicated to their African an-
cestors. The chanting of the rosary of ancestral names is chanting down
Babylon and constructing a new city of light to be called Heartease.
Through this chant, Goodison says, "we planting some one-love / undi-
vided ever living healing trees" (34). Goodison has joined other proph-
ets of her people to "extend the singing rosary of our ancestors' names
/ till the veil is rent from the eyes of the sky / of everyone," and bring-
ing about "illumination" (35).
The hurting soul in "In Anxiety Valley" feels lost, and rejected in her
moment of spiritual aridity, even in the midst of possible African-de-
rived spiritual and cultural retreats into which she can escape. The
problem arises from the fact that the soul cannot enter into the spir-
itual tabernacles of any of these religions. To do that, the individual
must first be inspired by the spirit. According to the service and ritual
patterns of Myal, and Revival, described by Monica Schuler (65-79),
Joseph M. Murphy (114-144), and Barry Chevannes (1971), the pre-
paratory stage for the trip to Heartease, described in "Heartease I"
(32-33), involves just such an arrest of the soul by the spirit. In this
state of seizure, Goodison receives visions on the effects of honoring
the sincere beliefs framed in the folkways of the common people, such
as in reconstituted "anansesem", which guide them in their daily strug-
gles. Post seizure, the soul then in "Heartease II" begins to journey in
the spirit (34-35). Journeying in the spirit is an experience in which
ritual directions are given for the consolidation of the new covenant
but defined through the cultural paradigms and icons of the people.
"Heartease III" (36-39) celebrates the moment of final purification
and exorcism of the genii of cultural disarticulation, psychological diso-
rientation, and spiritual "dead time." At this stage, in the dark, the flame
balls of faith illumine meandering pathways leading to Heartease. How-
ever, illumination alone can be a traumatic experience for the emo-
tionally under-prepared. Nonetheless, once in the hall of illumination,
the enemies of the people and their strategies of dominance become


manifestly clear. Ironically, the journeying soul at this intersection is
called upon to wear the mantles of forgiveness and love lest she back-
slide into the rhetoric of revenge. The mantle of love and forgiveness
brings out the prophetic voice and power of healing, not judgement.
Obviously, Goodison stresses that the poet/prophet should not pros-
elytise revenge. She should, like Isaiah, preach comfort (40: 1-5), and
restoration as in Zephaniah (3: 17-20) to a broken people. These bibli-
cal allusions reflect the teachings and the prophecies of Revival preach-
ers such as Alexander Bedward. On the one hand, Bedward's action of
mass baptism of people in the Hope River (Burton 116-119) is immor-
talized by Goodison in these words: "Say of the waters of the Hope
river, / how much sweeter than the ferment wine" ("Heartease III" 37).
On the other hand, Goodison critiques Bedwardian prophecy of apoca-
lyptic annihilation of the white race in Jamaica, and the liberation of
the African in the following words: "Accept this healing unbeliever /
place truth on your tongue deceiver. / Gather, for the days wrongly
predicted" (37). For Goodison, the present confusion are but an "over-
ture to the real / movement, to the pulsing of the rhythm of the / first
and last grouping (37).
Goodison seems to be saying that if their psyches and souls are
healed with the truth, and they are able to come together as a people
in love, they will be able to create material wealth for themselves. Her
argument encapsulates a vision of social collectivism that must form
the foundation for the development of both spiritual and material pros-
perity. The retreat from judgmental poetics means Goodison can tap
into the energies of collaborative creativity located in the spirituality
and histories of Africaribbean people. The engagement of their spir-
ituality enables her to authenticate her ritual of recall of the original
Africaribbean collective psyche out of its splinters. This hastens the
progression toward an intracultural and inter-gender healing that is
grounded in the present. Goodison refuses to prioritize any particular
spirituality, because they all possess aspects of authentic Africaribbean
ways to healing. Subsequently, she amalgamates the major anti-amne-
siac Africaribbean spiritual movements mentioned above. These are
"present-world-oriented", and are traceable to the African slaves' re-
tention of their African spirituality as a coded collective force against
"backra" sorcery (Schuller 65-67).
Thus, through innovative and crafty incorporation of her religious
traditions, Goodison is able to envision a flash of the spirit that will
bind the collective energies of the people. In the process, she hopes
this will help create a strategy of collectivism similar to what Myal,


Pukumania, Revival, Vodoo, Shango, Santeria, and other African-derived
religions have been able to achieve among her people over the years.
This ideal of collectivism is captured in the common Africaribbean
metaphor of African slaves turning into birds to fly back to Africa. It
also repeats the metaphor of the imagination as a bird, which travels
great distances by flight: "I am told that birds travel faster over greater
distances / when they move in chevron formation"("Heartease New
England 1987" 40). Although Velma Pollard thinks that this poem
achieves very little except for its show of verbal cleverness, it is, on
the contrary, a dazzling statement of the need for collective vision and
action, as opposed to individual endeavor. Goodison emphasizes this
point with the story of the single bird who tries to measure its own
"distances between columns / with its given wing span, and it fails / for
being alone and not having a wingspan wide enough"(40). It gets
trapped under iron girders, or in other words, it gets trapped instead
in the intricate nuances of the language of master.
The journey, which began in "In Anxiety Valley", and moved through
"Heartease I", and "Heartease II", now arrives and pauses in contem-
plation at the front gates of "Heartease III." "Heartease III" moves from
Jamaican dinky in "Crowdapeople, crowdapeople weep and mourn"
(36), through to an identification of the source of their woes, which
recalls the states of being of the mass of slaves landed at the ports in
the new world. Their confusion, misery, and their state of absolute
dejection as they were herded like cattle at an unction, to a recipe for
regeneration, and finally to a vision of the ecstatic spiritual role call
and homecoming announced by drums. There is the proposition that
cannot be rejected by any person seeking Heartease. She prophesies
that if they call all the artists, singers, musicians, drummers, and play-
ers of string instruments "by their holy hidden names," to produce a
melodious racket that would drive out evil and "make holy spirit raise"
even as they plant "undivided, ever-living / healing trees," nothing will
be able to stop them from reaching Heartease (39).
This vision recalls the several Africaribbean harvest festivals such
as Jonkonnu, Crop-Over, and Gombey (Bettleheim 80-100; Burton 65-
83; 156-220). In these quasi-religious festivals, elements of African spir-
ituality and religious traditions became sites of resistance against the
system. For example, masquerades were performed that made use of
esoteric languages and coded names. This had the import of counter-
sorcery to the bad obeah of European cultures. When Goodison, there-
fore, talks of calling out the singers "by their hidden holy names" (39),
she refers to this magico-religious symbolism in the ritual of esoteric

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