Pamela Mordecai’s first poem was written when she was nine, about a hurricane that hit the island of Jamaica in that year. She was born and grew up there, “going to the nuns” at age four and leaving them at age twenty-one. By then she had gone to the USA and had done a first degree in English at a small Catholic college in Massachusetts that she helped to integrate. Returning to Jamaica after college, she taught, became involved in theatre and modern dance, and began writing seriously. At the University of the West Indies she subsequently did two teaching degrees, and eventually a PhD. (It took her sixteen years to write.)
A bit of a hurricane herself, she has been a teacher, a trainer of teachers, a TV host, a writer-researcher, an editor, a book packager and a publisher. She has written newspaper editorials, dance criticism, textbooks, critical articles on Caribbean literature, studies on Caribbean culture, education, and publishing, poems and stories for children, poems and short stories for adults. In 2014, her “Caribbean Counting Poem” was identified in The Guardian (UK) as one of 10 top poems to remember and recite. https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/oct/02/top-10-poems-to-remember-and-recite-tony-mitton-poetry-day A play, “El Numero Uno,” commissioned by the Lorraine Kimsa Young People’s Theatre, had its world premiere in their 2009-2010 season. (See http://www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/ElNumeroUno-SG.pdf) A prolific anthologist with a special interest in the writing of Caribbean women, she has edited ground breaking anthologies such as Jamaica Woman (with Mervyn Morris), Her True-True Name (with Betty Wilson), and From Our Yard: Jamaican Poetry since Independence. Her most recent anthology is Calling Cards: New Poetry from Caribbean/ Canadian Women.
Pamela has published numerous textbooks, many co-authored with the late Grace Walker Gordon, her writing partner for 25 years, as well as five books for children. Storypoems: a First Collection (Ginn & Co. 1987), Don’t Ever Wake a Snake (Sandberry Press, 1992), Ezra’s Goldfish and other storypoems (NCB & Nat’l Book Dev. Cttee, 1993),The Costume Party (Oxford U Press, 2000) and Rohan Goes to Big School (Oxford U Press, 2000.)
Journey Poem, her first collection of poetry, was published by Sandberry Press in 1989. de Man: a performance poem, an eyewitness account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ written in Jamaican Creole published by Sister Vision Press in 1995. A popular verse play, it continues to be performed in Canada and the Caribbean to enthusiastic audiences. The most recent performances were in Norris Point, Newfoundland in 2012, Kitchener, Ontario in 2014, Kingston, Jamaica in 2015 and Rock Hall, St Andrew, Jamaica in 2016. The 2015 costumed performance in Kingston took place on Good Friday at Sts Peter & Paul Church and was directed by Eugene Williams, former Director of the School of Drama at the Edna Manley College of the Performing Arts.
Certifiable: Poems, was published in 2001 by Goose Lane Editions. In 2001, Greenwood Press also published the reference work, Culture and Customs of Jamaica in their Culture and Customs series, edited by Peter Standish, which Pamela wrote with her husband, Martin. The True Blue of Islands which appeared in 2005, is a collection of poems dedicated to her brother, Richard, who was murdered in Jamaica in 2004.
Pink Icing: stories, a collection of prose fiction, was published by Insomniac Press in 2006. It received rave reviews in Canada, the US and the Caribbean. Subversive Sonnets was released by TSAR Press in September 2012, and in 2015 TAP Books, the literary imprint of Dundurn, published her first novel, Red Jacket. Also in 2015, Mawenzi House published de book of Mary, first in a trilogy about the lives of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. (de Man, about the crucifixion, is the last book.) Pamela has begun work on “de book of Joseph”, second book in the trilogy, as well as on “Cotaban’s Complaint,” a YA novel. She hopes shortly to complete “Goat Mouth”, a second collection of short stories, and “The Tear Well”, a novel.
Pamela has received many awards for her writing. In 1998, her short story, “Limber like Me” was shortlisted in Prism International‘s annual short story competition. In 2000, her short story, “Once on the Shores of the Stream, Senegambia” was shortlisted for the James Tiptree Award for Speculative Fiction. Her poems have been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Award for Poetry (Canada, 2007) and The Bridport Prize (UK, 2008). Other awards for her writing include the Institute of Jamaica’s Centenary Medal for Services in the Field of Writing (1980), Jamaica’s first Vic Reid Award for children’s writing (1993 – for Ezra’s Goldfish and other storypoems), and Burke Bookstore’s Burla Award (2005) for her contribution to Caribbean literature. In 2013, she was awarded the Institute of Jamaica’s Bronze Musgrave Medal and in Spring 2014, she was a fellow at the prestigious Yaddo Artists Community in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York. http://yaddo.org In spring 2015, she video-recorded all her books of poetry up to that time at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL) in St John’s, Newfoundland. They are online at CITL <http
Pamela’s novel Red Jacket was one of 5 books shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award in 2015. She has also received grants from the Toronto Arts Council (6), Ontario Arts Council (Works in Progress) 5 and Canada Council (4) in support of her writing.
Pamela and her husband and three children migrated to Canada in 1993. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario.