The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2021
In The Insomnia Poems Grace Nichols explores those nocturnal hours when Sleep (the thief who nightly steals your brain) is hard to come by, and the politics of the day hard to shut out, never mind the lavender-scented pillow. Here memories of her own Guyana childhood mingle with the sleeping spectres of dreams and folk legends such as Sleeping Beauty. A lyrical interweaving of tones and textures invites the reader into the zones between sleep and no-sleep, between the solitude of the dark and the awakening of the light.
The Insomnia Poems was Grace Nichols's first new collection since Picasso, I Want My Face Back (2009). Neither of those collections are included in her Bloodaxe retrospective, I Have Crossed an Ocean (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
‘Lunar and likeable, Grace Nichols’s Insomnia Poems chart the hinterland between sleep and wakefulness, memory and desire, dreams and the realities of life.’ – Suzannah V. Evans, Times Literary Supplement
‘This beautiful volume is so excellent in so many ways that the relevance of its subject matter is a very minor feature. Drawing inspiration from the worlds of art, poetry, mythology, and with its own inherent musicality rising from each and every poem, it is a cultural education…. Not often bereft of words, this reviewer struggles to praise this volume highly enough. At least one copy should be in every school library.’ – Elizabeth Finlayson, The School Librarian [on The Insomnia Poems]
‘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.
Grace Nichols reads 'Hurricane Hits England' and 'Cat Rap'
Grace Nichols reads two of her best-known poems, 'Hurricane Hits England' (included on the GCSE English syllabus) and a poem for children (and cats), 'Cat-Rap', from I Have Crossed an Ocean. 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 'Weeping Woman', her poem in the voice of Picasso's muse Dora Maar from Picasso, I Want My Face Back: that video can be viewed on that book's page on the Bloodaxe website.
USA: Click here to order from Indiebound or Bookshop.org