Caribbean Writers – Grace Nichols – Guyana
by Chantel DaCosta Dec 3, 2018
“Beauty is a fat black woman
Walking the fields pressing a breezed
hibiscus to her cheek
while the sun lights up her feet.”
from the poem Beauty, The Fat Black Woman’s Poems by Grace Nichols, 1984.
Birth Name: Grace Nichols.
Place of Birth: Georgetown, Guyana.
Born: 1 January 1950.
The prolific Guyanese poet and novelist Grace Nichols only wrote one novel, her literary works have been predominantly poetry for adults and children.
Nichols grew up in Georgetown Guyana. After graduating high school, she read for a Communications degree at the University of Guyana. She went on to work as a journalist for the Georgetown Chronicle from 1972 to 1973, before becoming a writer for Guyana’s Government Information Services from 1973 to 1976.
During her time at the Government Information Services, Nichols travelled across the country working with various indigenous Guyanese communities. This period would later influence much of her writings as she explored elements of Guyanese Amerindian myths and folklore.
In 1977, at age of 27, Nichols moved to Britain with her partner, Guyanese poet, John Agard.
Her first poetry collection, I is a Long-Memoried Woman, was published in 1983. The book won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize.
In 1986 Nichols published a novel, Whole of a Morning Sky. Set in the 1960s, the novel mirrored Nichols’s childhood experiences.
She wrote several other poetry collections and children’s books. Her poems have been incorporated into the UK’s English Literature anthologies for students at the secondary level studying for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).
- I Is a Long Memoried Woman, Karnak House Publishers, 1983.
- The Fat Black Woman’s Poems, Virago Press, 1984.
- Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman, Virago Press, 1989.
- Sunris, Virago Press, 1996.
- I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2011.
- Picasso, I Want My Face Back, Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2014.
- Whole of a Morning Sky, Virago Press, 1986.
- Trust You, Wriggly!, Hodder Children’s Books, 1981.
- Baby Fish and Other Stories From Village to Rainforest, 1983.
- Leslyn in London, Hodder Children’s Books, 1987.
- Come on into My Tropical Garden (poems for children), J. B. Lippincott Company, 1988.
- Black Poetry (poems for children), Blackie Children’s Books, 1988.
- Poetry Jump Up: Anthology Of Black Poetry, Puffin, 1990.
- No Hickory, No Dickory, No Doc: A Collection of Caribbean Nursery Rhymes, Viking Children’s Books, 1991.
- Can I Buy a Slice of Sky?: Poems from Black, Asian and American Indian Cultures (editor), Hodder Children’s Books, 1993.
- Give Yourself a Hug, Puffin Books, 1996.
- Asana and the Animals: A Book of Pet Poems, Candlewick, 1997.
- The Poet Cat, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2001.
- Paint Me a Poem: New Poems Inspired by Art in the Tate, A & C Black Publishers Ltd, 2004.
- Whoa, Baby, Whoa! Bloomsbury USA Children’s, 2012.
Accolades and Awards
1983: Commonwealth Poetry Prize winner for the collection, I is a Long Memoried Woman.
1986: Arts Council Writers’ Award.
1996: Guyana Poetry Prize for Sunris.
2000: Cholmondeley Award recipient.
2007: Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Sources: The British Council, Modern British Women Writers: An A-to-Z Guide (edited by) Vicki K. Janik and Del Ivan Janik, Kaieteur News, Talk Yuh Talk: Interviews with Anglophone Caribbean Poets by Kwame Dawes, Royal Society of Literature, and Goodreads.