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Opal Palmer Adisa's Biography

Member Info

Oakland, California
Have been and seeking that soul-mate companion
Jun 2009

Diverse, innovative and multi-genre, Opal Palmer Adisa is an exceptional talent, nurtured on cane-sap and the oceanic breeze of Jamaica. Charismatic and informed, Adisa’s concerns span the gamut from children to the environment, and as such there is hardly any topic that she has not written about either in poetry, prose or essay.  A highly sought-after motivational speaker, Opal Palmer Adisa has lectured and read her work throughout the United States, Europe, South Africa, South American, and the Caribbean. An award-winning poet and prose writer Dr. Adisa has twelve titles to her credit, including the novel, It Begins With Tears (1997), proclaimed by Rick Ayers as one of the most motivational works for young adults.



It is more than who I read that feeds the work; it is my attention to life’s details; it is who has influenced me as I was growing up and how who they were being that stained me; and it is those social issues that continue to pull me -- these are still some of the greatest influences on my poetry, on what I write about. Often the poetry that most moves me is not in a book, but on the roadside, in a café or restaurant and comes out of the mouths of those who do not even recognize its poetry.
Sometimes, the poetry is the sunset, the shimmer of the sun on flowers in summer – the sheer splendidness of the colors, the waltz of the breeze, the startled or contented look of a domestic animal doing an ordinary act. This is where the poetry lives and all these images impact and feed what I write. But there are those poets who also help the work along.
Some of the newer members of my poetry family are Khaled Mattawa (Libya) Marilyn Nelson (African American) Claudia Rankin (Jamaica) Czeslaw Mitosz (Lithuania), Joseph Hanzlik (Czeck).
The elders, who were there from the beginning, before I even had an idea what I was doing are:
Pablo Neruda (Chil) Khalil Gibran (Lebanon)& Rumi (Afghanistan), Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados), Sonia Sanceh, Janye Cortez, Langston Hughes, Countee Collen, Margaret Walker, Henry Dumas , Lucille Clifton, Robert Hayden, Sterling Brown & Paul Laurence Dunbar (all African-Americans) Claude McKay & Louise Bennett( Jamaica) Aime Cesaire (Martinique), Audre Lorde (Caribbean/USA) Leon Dama (French Guiana), Rene Depestre (Haiti), David Diop (Senegal), Nicholas Guillen (Cuba), Octavio Paz (Mexico), & Garcia Lorca (Spain), Dennis Brutus (South Africa).
When I moved to California at the end of 1979, discovered Bob Kaufman & Kenneth Patchen. It was there that I came to love e.e.cummings, Ezra Pound, Denis Leverton, Edgar Allen Poe,
As a girl in Jamaica, my favorite poets were Henry Wadworth Longfellow and Lord Byron.

The list of fictions writers could be exhaustive, but a few top ones who have had profound impact and who are constantly with me are: Peter Abrahams, Amos Tutuola, Nadine Godmier, Jean Toomer, Buchi Emecheta, Octavia Butler, Willa Cather, Jane Austin, Camara Laye, Bessie Head, Chinua Achebe, Leslio Silko, Jacques Roumain, Louise Erdrich, Austin Clarke, Nadine Gordimer, Charles Chestnutt, Paule Marshall, Earl Lovelace, Alice Walker, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Toni Cade Bambara, C. L. R. James, Zora Neale Hurston, Roger Mais, Gloria Naylor, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Sembene Ousmane, James Baldwin, Edgar Mittleholzer, George Lamming, John Hearne, Samuel Selvon, AndrewSalkey, J. Edgar Wideman, Flora Nwapa, Rosa Guy and Wole Soyinka,

This is just a smattering of who I read as fiction writers as well as poets, and there are more influences, but I just can recall names now, and I am certain I have left out some important mentors.

Upcoming Works

Caribbean Erotica, forth coming November, 2009. Peepal Co-edited with Donna Weir-Soley. An anthology of poem, stories and essays that explores the erotic in Caribbean life.

Painting Away Regrets, novel, Spring 2010

Interests & Hobbies

Life in general, but specifically travel, cultures, families.


Love walks, yoga, have started Tai Chi and plan to take up tennis again.