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.
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:
“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