The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2021
Art, landscape and memory are interwoven strands in the fabric of Grace Nichols’ Picasso, I Want My Face Back. The book opens with a long poem in the voice of Dora Maar, who, as Picasso’s muse and mistress, was the inspiration for his iconic painting, The Weeping Woman. The poem's parts are almost interlocking reflections that echo the cubistic manner of the painting and allow us to enter the shifting surfaces of Dora Maar’s mind and her journey of self reclamation.
Neither this book nor her later collections, The Insomnia Poems and Passpoprt from Here to There, are included in her Bloodaxe retrospective I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems (2010).
'Over the past four decades, Grace has been an original, pioneering voice in the British poetry scene. A noted reader and ‘performer’ of her work, she has embraced the tones of her adopted country and yet maintained the cadences of her native tongue. Her poems are alive with characters from the folklore and fables of her Caribbean homeland, and echo with the rhymes and rhythms of her family and ancestors. Song-like or prayer-like on occasion, they exhibit an honesty of feeling and a generosity of spirit. They are also passionate and sensuous at times, being daring in their choice of subject and openhearted in their outlook. Above all, Grace Nichols has been a beacon for black women poets in this country, staying true to her linguistic coordinates and poetic sensibilities, and offering a means of expression that has offered inspiration and encouragement to many. She is a moving elegist, and a poet of conciliation and constructive dialogue between cultures, but also a voice of questioning dissent when the occasion demands.' - Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate, on behalf of The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry Committee
‘Not only rich music, an easy lyricism, but also grit, and earthy honesty, a willingness to be vulnerable and clean’ – Gwendolyn Brooks.
‘Grace Nichols has wit, acidity, tenderness, any number of gifts at her disposal’ – Jeanette Winterson.
‘Grace Nichols came to Britain from Guyana at the age of 27 and 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’ – Peter Forbes, Contemporary Writers.
‘From her first collection in 1983, I Is a Long Memoried Woman, she has been a strong presence in the linguistic interweave between the Caribbean and the UK. Her poetry and prose move easily between the poised world of Western culture, Old World history and myth, and the gritty rhythms of the Caribbean everyday… There is wit, irony and passion…real poise’ – Michelene Wandor, Poetry Review
Grace Nichols reads from 'Weeping Woman'
Grace Nichols reads extracts from 'Weeping Woman', her long poem in the voice of Dora Maar, who as Picasso's muse and mistress, was the inspiration for his iconic painting, 'Weeping Woman' (1937). This is an excerpt from a film made by Pamela Robertson-Pearce of Grace Nichols' reading Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts in 2009, which also included poems from I Have Crossed an Ocean: that video can be viewed on that book's page on the Bloodaxe website.
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