Wonderful Women: Grace Nichols

Grace Nichols (1950) was born in Georgetown, Guyana and grew up in a small country village on the Guyanese coast. She moved to the city with her family when she was eight, an experience central to her first novel, ‘Whole of a Morning Sky’, set in 1960s Guyana in the middle of the country’s struggle for independence. She worked as a teacher and journalist and, as part of a Diploma in Communications at the University of Guyana, spent time in some of the most remote areas of Guyana, a period that influenced her writings and initiated a strong interest in Guyanese folk tales, Amerindian myths and the South American civilisations of the Aztec and Inca. She moved to the UK in 1977. It has been said of Nichols that ‘she has carried the warmth of her Caribbean sensibility through many a cold English winter. Her poems celebrate sensuality and generosity and attack petty mean-spiritedness… Deeply Caribbean in sensibility, she writes sensitively of other traditions, especially Africa and India’. Her first poetry collection, I is a Long-Memoried Woman, was published in 1983. The book won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and a subsequent film adaptation of the book was awarded a gold medal at the International Film and Television Festival of New York. The book was also dramatised for radio by the BBC. Subsequent poetry collections include The Fat Black Woman’s Poems (1984), Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman (1989), and Sunris (1996). She also writes books for children, inspired predominantly by Guyanese folklore and Amerindian legends, including Come on into My Tropical Garden (1988) and Give Yourself a Hug (1994). Everybody Got A Gift (2005) includes new and selected poems, and her collection, Startling the Flying Fish (2006), contains poems which tell the story of the Caribbean. Her latest books are Picasso, I Want My Face Back (2009); and I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems (2010).

This is part of a series I’m doing for S4 Foundation during Women’s History Month. Will continue to share the Guyanese women on this blog.

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