Lorna Goodison is one of the Caribbean’s most distinguished contemporary poets, yet one of writing’s least heralded. With the highly praised collection of short fiction “By Love Possessed: Stories” (Amistad, $14.99), the writer’s writer is waiting to be discovered. These tales demonstrate why she may be one of literature’s best kept secrets.
In the Pushcart Prize-winning title story, humble Dottie thinks her luck has turned when she meets Frenchie, the best-looking, if not most reliable, man in the whole of Jamaica.
In “The Helpweight,” an accomplished woman must bear the burden of an old flame’s renewed affections when he returns from a life abroad with his Irish bride in tow.
And in “Henry,” a young boy turned out of his house to make way for his mother’s lover sells roses on the street to survive. On a whim, he bites off a bloom, which he can feel burning inside his mouth like a red pepper light, hoping it will take root and beautify his own life.
Poetically rendered, these and over a dozen other evocative stories create a world in which pride can nourish a soul or be its ruin and where people are in turn uplifted and undone by love.
Goodison’s powerfully moving stories in explore the pain, the struggle, and the triumph of Jamaicans — particularly women — those still living on their Caribbean island and those who have emigrated elsewhere. Making dazzling use of the Creole patois of Jamaica, Goodison outlines the beauty and despair of the human condition and explores the unique power of love to both uplift and destroy.
The internationally recognized poet has published nearly a dozen books of poetry, two collections of short stories and the accalimed “From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island.” In 1999, she received the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, and her work has been widely translated and anthologized in major collections of contemporary poetry. Born in Jamaica, Goodison now teaches at the University of Michigan and divides her time between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Toronto, Canada. “By Love Possessed” is a beautiful gift from an extraordinary writer.