Lorna Goodison in workshops at Yale
Jamaican Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison was among a group of writers who received the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize from Yale University earlier this year. Goodison and seven other creative minds were honoured for their literary achievements and received US$165,000 each to support their writing. In addition to the prize money, the winners participated in a three-day literary festival to introduce their work to new audiences. This took place from September 12-14.
Speaking with The Gleaner about her experiences at the festival, Goodison said she never expected to still be so actively involved in the literary arts at this stage of her career but is grateful for the opportunities she has been given and has been capitalising on each one.
"I am feeling really very blessed, and God is very good because at this stage of my life, I never imagined I would be as productive. A few weeks ago. I was at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, I was there last year, and they invited me back, and that alone was quite unusual because you don't usually get invited to that festival twice, so that alone speaks volumes," she said. "Then, I launched a new collection called Redemption Ground, and they are essays and adventures about poetry and my relationship with poetry and things that have happened to me as I've travelled. It had a very successful launch at the Waterstones Bookstore in Trafalgar Square in London. I was particularly happy that I could still pique such an interest - we had a sold-out crowd. Then I left there and went down to Yale, so I've been extremely busy, but blessed because it has all been very productive."
At Yale, Goodison conducted a number of workshops at the Yale School of Art. She was on a panel on memoir writing, as well as a gallery talk on the late African-American painter Jacob Lawrence, with whom Goodison worked closely before his passing. That workshop, she admitted, was very special to her.
"I studied art in New York for years, and I took a class with him, so I was able to talk about my impressions of him. I got to know him really well as he taught me a lot about art, which also helped me in my writings in many ways. He taught me how to be an artist, so it was a very moving thing for me to do that," she said. "It really felt good because although many know me as a poet, my training is as a painter."
Having collected the prize money and starting a competition of her own to aid young writers, Goodison says she plans to use some of the funds to expand the prize purse in the competition she spearheads.
Last year, Goodison partnered with the National Library of Jamaica and the Helen Zell's Writer's Program at the University of Michigan to award a cash prize of US$1,000 to two special young writers. Come next year, Goodison hopes to award more young people.