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“Songs of the Fruits and Sweets of Childhood” is by far one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Goodison’s prose is unbelievably lovely, each stanza so superbly written that they could be poems of their own:

Cream pink pomander

Like a lady’s sachet

Is the genteel roseapple

Scenting the breath.


Jade green lantern

light astringent

is the tart taste of the jimbelin.

With each description of these foreign fruits and sweets, Goodison reminds us of the simple joys of childhood. Though the poem is bursting with the complex language of an adult writer, it is contrasted by the simplicity of the poem’s subject itself. Foods like “naseberry”, “starapple”, and “jimbelin”, to name a few, help to bring a certain exoticness to this poem as we struggle to picture these far-off wonders as Goodison describes them. Her wistfulness for these simple childhood pleasures is so clearly conveyed that I too was able to feel that same nostalgia as Goodison felt it.

There are elements of adulthood in this poem as well:

This is a lover’s fruit

Because it runs

With a sweet

Staining milk

And the flesh

If bitten too deep,

Has been known to bind you.

Here we are able to catch a glimpse of an adult Goodison’s perspective in the midst of an otherwise innocent poem. There are also humorous moments in the poem as well:

A soft brown square

Of rare delight

Is a wedge

Of guava cheese.

O guava cheese

Make you sneeze.

Penny a cut

Full yu gut?

The stanza grow longer towards the end as Goodison describes the different candies from her childhood; this helps to immerse us even more fully in the poem as we are shown the process behind creating the candy:

A shaggy

Grater cake

Can be rich brown

If it takes

Its color

From burnt sugar.

But if it holds

Its coconut milk

To itself

And mixes only

With white sugar,

It becomes

What some consider

A greater cake.

It is then topped

With a show off hat

Of cochineal or magenta.

Goodison’s ability to take even the simplest of ideas and spin them into the richest and most vibrant of poems is a clear indicator of her overall skill as a poet. This is a poem that I know I will be able to reread countless times without ever getting sick of it due to its astounding prose coupled with its refreshingly simple subject matter.

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