Lorna Goodinson

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Lorna Goodinson

Lorna Goodison utilizes a wider range of poetic devices to discuss universal themes.

A universal theme is an idea that applies to anyone regardless of cultural differences, or geographic location. Universal themes are ways to connect ideas across all disciplines. It is a central idea about the human condition. It is a generalization about life or human nature; they deal with basic human concerns.  Lorna Goodinson, one of the finest Caribbean poets of her generation, used poetic devices such as diction, symbolism, imagery, repetition alliteration et al. to bring out the universal themes of Motherhood, Womanhood and the role of women in society in the following poems:

  • Nanny
  • I am becoming my mother
  • For My Mother (May I Inherit her strength)
  • Mother, the great stones got to move

In these series of poems on women, which may be tributes, she glorifies their strength and has a recurring reference to the mother.  Woman as mother can be seen as an undercurrent although in most of them the ageless strength of women is also a theme. 

 Firstly, she presents the poem Nanny, which is about a national hero of Jamaica, Nanny ‘Queen of the Maroons,’ an obeah woman who led the maroons in wars against the British. Legend has it that she was invincible and used obeah to protect her people. Goodison describes Nanny as the mother of “every one of my people’s children.”  She used the poetic device of diction to become the voice of Nanny. Nanny’s voice, embodied in the poet, opens the poem with a concrete reference to her womb which is the traditional symbol of fertility.

“My womb was sealed
 with molten wax
 of killer bees
 for nothing should enter
 nothing should leave
 the state of perpetual siege
 the condition of the warrior.”
  
The theme of the role of women was highlighted because this was a sense of sacrifice when Nanny relinquished the opportunity having any children of her own in a ritualistic conditioning in order to gain the power that made her an invincible warrior and protector. Additionally, this theme was highlighted further where we see Nanny (a woman) going through intense training in skills of warfare to the point where “danger” and “death” were personified to have a scent/odour that was detectable. This contrasted with the norms of society whereby the males were the protectors. She was then in a position to become the ‘mother’ of her people and the theme of Motherhood was created because it shows how a mother would do anything to protect her children.

         Secondly, ongoing from this kind of conquest and timeless presence she turned to the sense of a cycle in the second poem “I am Becoming My Mother.” Goodison used the device of repetition in the first two-lined verse and the last verse but with an additional first line of ‘I am becoming my mother’.  These lines were the core of the poem and the repeating of the first verse’s two lines completed a circle; a circle that fulfilled in many respects, a strengthening of the original idea of the poem. As a result, Goodison effectively showed how the universal themes are interrelated in this poem. The repetition above clearly made the reader aware that the daughter has entered into womanhood and her role as a woman has begun. Moreover, the poet went further into her transformation of an adult and became a mother.