The Garden of Forgetting
At the core of this collection are poems that chart the attempt to come to terms with the life shattering loss of two relationships: father and husband. They explore with a great exactness the connections between inner feelings and the physical context for those feelings: the Jamaican landscape, and the promptings of external phenomena to memory. They ‘sip the brine of loss: proof that I have lived’.
Gwyneth Barber Wood
ISBN number
Country setting
Publication date
08 Sep 2005

Though in one sense Gwyneth Barber Wood writes against the grain of much recent Jamaican poetry by writing almost exclusively in standard English (the one occasion when she uses nation language is all the more powerful by contrast) and using traditional forms of verse, her poems are intensely Jamaican. Those poems that are set in England are almost wholly defined by Jamaican absences. A London silence becomes all the more empty as the memory of ‘someone’s bashment in the valley welled/ up in my head.’ Elsewhere there is a careful attention to the quality of Jamaican light that subtly maps shifts of mood, as when the shadow of the dying day ‘creases the backs of hills’, where what has once been solid becomes fragile and subject to change.
Gwyneth Barber Wood is a quiet but distinctive new voice in Jamaican and Caribbean poetry. She has a gift for vividly detailed yet compressed narratives (of, for instance, her childhood recall of the breaking up of her parent’s marriage) that say as much as short stories twenty times the length, of telling detail (hearing a friend’s grief, for example, in the ‘quiet crackle of a phone’) and striking metaphor (forgiveness ‘spawns like a salmon in brackish grey’).

The author writes:

This collection of poems reflect loss and recollection, pain, courage and joy in resilience, endurance, survival. Sometimes the world is glimpsed through an opaque windowpane, sometimes the whole window is pushed joyfully open.

I believe that words and ideas and experiences are to be turned in the light, like jewels, and their range of meaning and the spectrum of light that they cast are catalysts for reverie, empathy, wisdom, and wonder-indeed even rage. This capacity to sift and filter separates shadow from substance, dreamscape from reality, whimsy from worth.

Some of the poems leave a bitter-sweet aftertaste, and the thoughts and ideas that create them can both curl like smoke, or prickle like thorns, but I believe they reverberate until their mystery is solved or shared (or filed), or their clarity quenches the spiritual/intellectual/aesthetic thirst.

At first I was shy to share the fruit of my muse, but I have listened to her insistent call, and honed my skills. I now wish to engage you with a confident, evocative voice. The layers of ideas are like pearls. I invite you to peel the layers back, and enjoy the subtle glow along the way as you share my journey into ""The Garden of Forgetting.""

Gwyneth Barber Wood was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Her work has been regularly appearing in the literary section of the Jamaican Observer and in 2001 she was awarded a Fellowship by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.


Gwyneth Barber Wood

Gwyneth Barber Wood arrived as a quiet but distinctive new voice in Jamaican and Caribbean poetry, with a gift for vividly detailed yet compressed narratives that say as much as short stories many times their length, of telling detail and striking metaphor. Sadly, Gwyneth Barber Wood died, far too young, in 2006.
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