Lorna Goodison was born in Kingston, Jamaica. A painter before she turned her focus to poetry, Goodison was educated at the Jamaica School of Art and the School of the Art Students League in New York.
In her twenties, back in Jamaica, she taught art and worked in advertising and public relations before deciding to pursue a career as a professional writer. She began to publish in the Jamaica Journal.
Goodison was awarded Jamaica’s Musgrave Gold Medal in 1999. In 2013, she was awarded the Jamaican national honor of the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander "for outstanding achievements in Literature and Poetry".
She is currently a professor of English and of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, she divides her time between Ann Arbor, Toronto, and the north coast of Jamaica.