From Harvey River: a memoir of my mother and her people

A recent ‘read’, A Memoir of my Mother and Her People From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison, gives a beautiful account of a writer-poet who journeys through several generations through to the present.  From the inside jacket…

“When Doris Harvey’s English grandfather, William Harvey, discovers a clearing at the end of a path cut by the feet of those running from slavery, he gives his name to what will become his family’s home for generations.”

Given my interest in ancestry and my search for the narratives of my own family, the structure of Lorna Goodison’s account was of tremendous interest to me.  I’ve toyed with the idea of writing my own memoir at some point, but am sometimes uncertain about how to protect the ‘living’ from the honesty of a family’s beginnings.  Goodison is successful, I think.  An excellent book for those who enjoy historical accounts.

I would like to include here, a poem by Lorna Goodison.  This poem found on this site.

Guinea Woman by Lorna Goodison 

Another from the Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry.

Guinea Woman
By Lorna Goodison

Great grandmother
was a guinea woman
wide eyes turning
the corners of her face
could see behind her
her cheeks dusted with
a fine rash of jet-bead wars
that itched when the rain set up.

Great grandmother’s waistline
the span of a headman’s hand
slender and tall like a cane stalk
with a guinea woman’s antelope-quick walk
and when she paused
her gaze would look to sea
her profile fine like some obverse impression
on a guinea coin from royal memory.

It seems her fate was anchored
in the unfathomable sea
for her great grandmother caught the eye of a sailor
whose ship sailed without him from Lucea harbor.
Great grandmother’s royal scent of
cinnamon and scallions
drew the sailor up the straits of Africa,
the evidence my blue-eyed grandmother
the first Mulatta,
taken into backra’s household
and covered with his name.
They forbade great grandmother’s
guinea woman presence
they washed away her scent of
cinnamon and scallions
controlled the child’s antelope walk
and called her uprisings rebellions.

But, great grandmother
I see your features blood dark
in the children of each new
the high yellow brown
is darkening down.
Listen, children
it’s great grandmother’s turn.

Leave a Reply