Beg No Pardon

Lynne Thompson

Extroverted, declarative, jazzy, and vital, Beg No Pardon commands attention from the first word to the last. Lynne Thompson’s poetry is brimming with personality and attitude in the very best sense—pride, dignity, and graceful indignation—in poems about the search for legacy, love of legacy, and joy of legacy. Thompson explores identity from a little-known and complicated beginning, both personally and culturally. Using the music and language of her hybrid culture Thompson describes a vivid world of Afro-Caribbean heritage and late 20th-century life.

How I Learned Where We Come From

When she wants him for the late meal, she calls
supper soon Kingstown-man, curried goat, sticky-wicket

and he responds, testy, not yet ready, Bequia-woman,
Anglican church, basket with no handles.

We children, we laugh, head for the hills
and the tall sweet-grasses, listen for the lilt

of frangipani tantie. She call come in now
pigeon peas, mangoes, poor man’s orchids —

then we run, for true, and supper is all
cassava root, callaloo, very little sugar cane

and we’re in it all at once: choirsong above
Mt. Pleasant, Port Elizabeth, harp of Paget Farm

till Father, he say no, defends his slipped-on wishes
for Soufrière, Sans Souci, Wallilabou Bay

and so on into the evening, calypso and steel drums,
a little Rasta and Bob Marley for us young’uns

until, finally, we are no longer black ironwood —
wood that will not float.


Listen to “Seed of Mango, Seed of Maize,” “The Unworshipped Woman,” “To Blackness,” and “A Sorceress Strolls New Grass,” read by Lynne Thompson at Perugia Press’s 20th anniversary celebration at Smith College on November 12, 2016:

Cover image: Beg No Pardon
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Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, winner

“In Lynne Thompson’s collection, Beg No Pardon, the poems move from precise reflections on childhood to the rights of passage of young adult years, and then on to all the days of joy and despair, solitude, longing, and self-knowledge that follow in a life richly lived and acutely observed. Thompson is a poet who revels in language — that ‘house of many pleasures.’ Like the ‘one good eye’ of her ‘Unworshipped Woman,’ this collection delights, ‘it flash—’” —Natasha Trethewey
“The poems in Lynne Thompson’s Beg No Pardon sing of her Caribbean ancestors, won’t be told the can or can’t do, have the perfume of sin bleeding from their fingertips. These poems drip from lips the color of peril. Here is a deep ode to blackness, an incantatory chant from a deep well of mythic missives.” —Tony Barnstone
“There are obvious pleasures here: Thompson’s improvisational sense of the line, her rich, haunted, but not morose sack of images, and her depth of subject combined with an accessibility for which I feel grateful. Her allusions are not “classical,” but they are archetypal. If Thompson limited herself to the ancestral/mystical, the collection might become redundant. Instead, she moves into the present tense of sex, and jazz, and blackness, claiming a delicious word-palette. The poems here seduce and confront and refuse to be anonymous — or they revel in the transgressions anonymity affords. They really do beg no pardon.” —Judge of the GLCA New Writers Award

Lynne Thompson

Lynne Thompson’s Beg No Pardon, her first book, won the Perugia Press Prize in 2007 and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award in 2008. She’s also the author of Start With A Small Guitar (What Books Press, 2013), Fretwork (2019), winner of the Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize, and Blue on a Blue Palette (BOA Editions, 2024). Thompson is the recipient of multiple awards, among them an Individual Artist Fellowship from the City of Los Angeles. Her work has been widely anthologized including in The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles and Best American Poetry 2020. Thompson serves on the boards of Cave Canem and the Los Angeles Review of Books, is Chair of the Board of Trustees, Scripps College, and serves as the inaugural Perugia Press Poet Liaison to the Board, a conduit between poets and the board and a mentor to the latest winning poet. She was 2021-2022 Poet Laureate to the City of Los Angeles. Visit her on Twitter @poetess151 and on her website.

  • Read Lynne Thompson’s “The Story of My Book” feature on Perugia’s blog.
  • Read Lynne Thompson’s “Poet’s Platform” feature on Perugia’s blog, about the podcast she launched as LA Poet Laureate and her reading list.
  • Watch the Women’s History Month poetry reading and conversation held online on March 25, 2021 for Westfield State University featuring three contemporary Black women poets: Amina Jordan-Mendez, Lynne Thompson, and Patricia Smith.
  • Watch Perugia poets Lynne Thompson, Jacqueline Balderrama, and Ida Stewart read in the “Phosphorescence Poetry Reading Series” for the Emily Dickinson Museum.
  • Watch Perugia’s virtual launch for The Book Eaters featuring author Carolina Hotchandani with Perugia poets Jennifer K. Sweeney and Lynne Thompson and guest poet Catherine Barnett.
  • When asked in her capacity as L.A. Poet Laureate in this L.A. Times interview, “How did you find your voice?” Thompson​ replied, “I know when I felt that I’d found it. It was writing the poem ‘How I Learned Where We Come From,’ … in my first collection, Beg No Pardon. The poem braids two of my favorite subjects — family and cultural landscapes — and it felt natural, unforced and musical.”
  • YouTube interview with Mariano Zaro for Poetry.LA: Thompson reads her poem “To Blackness” from Beg No Pardon (poem begins at 10:45, though listen to the whole piece to hear Thompson’s thoughts on ancestors, memory, music, coming to poetry after practicing law, breaking stereotypes of “the other” in her poetry, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade).
  • An interview about Beg No Pardon on the radio program “Writer’s Voice”:

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