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Grace Nichols

Grace Nichols writes poetry for adults and children and has also published a novel, Whole of a Morning Sky (1986) and short stories for children. She was born in British Guiana in 1950, grew up in a small coastal village and in 1958 moved to the capital, Georgetown. She left school in 1966, the year Guyana gained its formal independence from Britain. After studying for a Diploma in Communications at the University of Guyana she worked as a teacher and a journalist. In 1977, she migrated to Britain with partner, poet John Agard.

Her first book for children was published in 1981, followed by the award-winning poem sequence, i is a long memoried woman which explores the epic, historical and mythic ‘journeying’ of a black slave woman (1983), a theme shared by the unnamed female protagonists of the title poem of sunris (1996) and Startling the Flying Fish (2006). A feature film based on i is, was awarded the Gold Medal at the New York International Film and Video Festival in 1990. Nichols is perhaps best known for The Fat Black Woman’s Poems (1984), a collection which deal with themes of home and unhomeliness in the Caribbean migrant experience, and, in particular, the politics of representing the raced, sexed body in a Black British context. Nichols has published 5 major poetry collections and a wide variety of books for children, including poetry, picture books and easy readers.

She is the recipient of various awards, including: the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1983) for i is; the Arts Council Writers Award (1986); the Poetry Book Society Best Single Author Childrens Collection (1994); the Guyana Prize for Poetry (1996) for sunris; the Cholmondeley Award (2001); the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Award (2003); the “Childrens Poetry Bookshelf Best Single Author’s Collection (2004) for Paint Me  a Picture and the Guyana Poetry Award (2008). In 2007 Nichols was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in the UK.

Her residency at London’s famous Tate Gallery(1999-2000) saw her work with young schoolchildren on the “Visual Paths to Literary project” and led to 20 new poems in Paint Me A Poem: New Poems Inspired by Art in the Tate (2004). This fascination between the links between visual and poetic texts is also reflected in the collection, Picasso, I Want My Face Back (2009), the title poem of which explores the relationship between the Cubist painter and his muse and mistress, artist Dora Maar.


Atayurt, Zeynep Z. “‘Beauty is a fat black woman’: Aesthetization of the Displaced Body in Grace Nichols’s Fat Black Woman’s Poems.” Interactions, 19.1-2 (2010): 1-12. Print.

Bettinger, Elfi. “Grace Nichols’s ‘Sugar Cane’: A Post-Colonial and Feminist Perspective”, Anglistik und Englischunterricht 53: 117–27. Print.

Buonanno, Giovanna. “Mapping a gendered identity across languages and cultures in Grace Nichols’ writing/ Grace Nichols’ un yazilarinda diller ve kulturler arasi cinsiyete bagli kimligi belirlemek.” Interactions 16.1 (2007): 41-51. Print.

Butcher, Maggie, “In Conversation with Grace Nichols.” Wasafiri 8 (1988): 17–20. Print.

Dawes, Kwame. “Calypso, Carnival and Quiet Concentration”. Poetry London Newsletter 1.2 (1997): 21–2. Print.

Easton, Alison. “The Body as History and ‘Writing the Body’: The Example of Grace Nichols.” Journal of Gender Studies 3.1(1994): 55-67. Print.

Escudero, Maite. “Race, Gender and Performance in Grace Nichols’s The Fat Black Woman’s Poems.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 1.2 (2000). Web. 

France, Linda. “High Days and Holidays.” Rev. of Penguin Modern Poets: Jackie Kay, Merle Collins, Grace Nichols. Vol. 8, and Sunris by Grace Nichols. Poetry Review 86.4 (1996): 74-5. Print.

Fraser, Peter. “i is a long memoried woman.” Let It Be Told: Black Women Writers in Britain. Ed. Lauretta Ngcobo. London: Virago, 1988. 104–5. Print.

Gohrisch, Jana. “Gender and Hybridity in Contemporary Caribbean Poetry.” Anglistentag 1997 Giessen, Proceedings. Ed. Raimund Borgmeier, Herbert Grabes and Andreas H. Jucker. Trier: WVT, 1998, 139–56. Print.

“Grace Nichols.” Interview. Talk Yuh Talk: Interviews with Anglophone Caribbean Poets. Ed. Kwame Dawes. Charlottesville & London: University Press of Virginia, 2001, 135–47. Print.

Griffin, Gabriele. “‘Writing the Body’: Reading Joan Riley, Grace Nichols and Ntozake Shange’”. Black Women’s Writing. Ed. Gina Wisker. Basingstoke: Macmillan. 1993. 19-42. Print.

Lawson Welsh, Rachel. Grace Nichols. Writers and Their Work Series. Tavistock, U.K.: Northcote House & British Council, 2007. Print.

Ledgister, F.S.J. “Arrival poems.” Rev. Picasso, I Want My Face Back, byGrace Nichols. Caribbean Review of Books. May 2010. Web. 15 Jan. 2013.

Nichols, Grace. A Dangerous Knowing: Four Black Women Poets. London: Sheba, 1984. Print.

—. Leslyn in London. 1978. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984. Print.

—. Trust You, Wriggly. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1980. Print.

—. i is a Long Memoried Woman. London: Karnak House, 1983. Print.

—. Baby Fish and Other Stories. Self-published, 1983. Print.

—. A Wilful Daughter. Self-published, 1983. Print.

—. The Fat Black Woman’s Poems. London: Virago, 1984. Print.

—. The Discovery. London: Macmillan, 1986. Print.

—. Whole of a Morning Sky.  London: Virago, 1986. Print.

—. Contemporary Literature on Tape: Grace Nichols and Samuel Selvon. London: British Library, National Sound Archive, 1987. Audio.

—. “Grace Nichols.” Let It Be Told: Black Women Writers in Britain. Ed. Lauretta Ngcobo. London: Virago, 1988. 95-104. Print.

—. Come On Into My Tropical Garden. London: A & C Black, 1988; reissued London: Young Lions, 1993. Print.

—. ed. Black Poetry. London: Blackie, 1988; reissued as Poetry Jump-Up. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989. Print.

—. Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman. London: Virago, 1989. Print.

—. ed. Poetry Jump-Up. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989. Print.

—.  “Home Truths.” Hinterland: Caribbean Poetry from the West Indies and Britain. Ed. E.A. Markham. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1989. 296–8. Print.

—. “The Battle with Language.” Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference. Ed. Selwyn R. Cudjoe. Wellesley, Massachusetts: Calaloux, 1990. 283–9. Print.

—, and John Agard, eds. No Hickory, No Dickory, No Dock: A Collection of Caribbean Nursery Rhymes. London: Viking/ Penguin, 1991. Print.

 —. Can I Buy a Slice of Sky?: Poems from Black, Asian and Amerindian Cultures. London: Blackie, 1991. Print.

—. i is a long memoried woman. Radio dramatization, BBC Radio 3, 8 November 1991. Audio.

—. Interview. Woman’s Hour. BBC Radio 4. 1991. Audio.

—. Healy, Maura ed. Quartet of Poems. Poems by Grace Nichols, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and Lorna Goodison. Harlow: Longman, 1993. Print.

—, and John Agard, eds. A Caribbean Dozen: Poems from Caribbean Poets. London: Walker, 1994. Print.

—. Give Yourself a Hug. London: A & C Black, 1994; reissued London: Penguin, 1996. Print.

—. sunris. London: Virago, 1996. Print.

—. Penguin Modern Poets Volume 8, Jackie Kay, Merle Collins and Grace Nichols. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996. Print.

—. We Couldn’t Provide Fish Thumbs, Poems by James Berry, Judith Nicholls, Grace Nichols, Vernon Scannell and Matthew Sweeney. London: Macmillan, 1997. Print.

—. Asana and the Animals. London: Walker, 1997. Print.

—. The Poet-Cat. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. Print.

—. Under the Moon & Over the Sea: A Collection of Caribbean Poems. London: Walker, 2002. Print.

—. Paint Me A Poem: New Poems Inspired by Art in the Tate. London: A & C Black, 2004. Print.

—. ed. with John Agard. From Mouth to Mouth: Oral Poems from Around the World.  London: Walker Books, 2004. Print.

—. Everybody Got a Gift. London: A & C Black, 2005. Print.

—. Interview with Morag Styles. The Children’s Book Magazine. March 2005. Print.

—. Startling the Flying Fish. London: Virago, 2006. Print.

—. Picasso, I Want My Face Back. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe, 2009. Print.

—. I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe, 2010. Print.

—. Cosmic Disco. Francis Lincoln, 2013. Print.

—. Sun Time, Snow Time. London: A & C Black, 2013Print.

Papaleonida, Paraskevi. “‘Holding my Beads in my Hand’: Dialogue, Synthesis and Power in the Poetry of Jackie Kay and Grace Nichols.” Kicking Daffodils: Twentieth-Century Women Poets. Ed. Vicki Bertram. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997. 125–39. Print.

Pratt, Akua. Review of i Is a Long Memoried Woman. Frontline, Caribbean Cultural International, Karnak House, 1983. Print.

Scafe, Suzanne. “Grace Nichols.” Modern British Women Writers. Ed. Vicki K. Janik and Del Ivan Janick. Connecticut: Greenwood 2002. Print.

Scanlon, Mara. “The divine body in Grace Nichols’s The Fat Black Woman’s Poems.” World Literature Today. Winter 1998, Vol. 72 Issue 1, 59-67. Print.

Szirtes, George. Review of Cosmic Disco by Grace Nichols. The Guardian 16 Nov. 2013. Web.

Webhofer, Gudrun. “Identity” in the Poetry of Grace Nichols and Lorna Goodison. Salzburg: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996. Print.

Woodcock, Bruce. “Long Memoried Women: Caribbean Women Poets.” Black Women’s Writing. Ed. Gina Wisker. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1993. 55–77. Print.

O’Callaghan, Evelyn. Woman Version: Theoretical Approaches to West Indian Fiction by Women. London: Macmillan, 1993. Print.

The Poetry of Grace Nichols. Poetry Backpack Series for Schools. BBC Television, 1997. TV.

Walder, Dennis ed. Post-colonial Literatures in English. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. Print.

Williams, Patrick. “Difficult Subjects: Black British Women’s Poetry.” Literary Theory and Poetry: Extending the Canon. Ed. David Murray. London: Batsford, 1989. 108–26. Print.

Wisker, Gina. Post-Colonial and African-American Women’s Writing. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000. Print.

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