Poetry Book Society Special Commendation
In Passport to Here and There Grace Nichols traces a journey that moves from the coastal memories of a Guyana childhood to life in Britain and her adoptive Sussex landscape. In these movingly redemptive and celebratory poems, she embraces connections and re-connections with the ability to turn the ordinary into something sensuous and memorable whether personal or public, contemporary or historical, most notably in a sonnet-sequence which grew out of a recent return trip to Guyana. Her ninth collection of adult poems and her fourth book with Bloodaxe, Passport to Here and There makes a significant contribution both to Caribbean and to British poetry.
Atlantic – now sleeping in the distance
peaceful as a dog glossed by the morning sun.
Atlantic – now churning up an army of wild horses,
white manes threatening a biblical leaping
or brooding on the ships that bruised your memory
Passport to Here and There is Grace Nichols’s third new collection since her Bloodaxe retrospective, I Have Crossed an Ocean (2010), following Picasso, I Want My Face Back (2009) and The Insomnia Poems (2017).
‘Unquestionably one of our most important living poets, Grace Nichols returns with her ninth collection of poems about a childhood in Guyana and move to Britain. With wit and warmth, Nichols delves into the what is lost and gained by being between places.’ – Katie Goh, i-D (Books to read in 2020), on Passport to Here and There
‘Not only rich music, an easy lyricism, but also grit, and earthy honesty, a willingness to be vulnerable and clean.’ – Gwendolyn Brooks
‘To write beyond middle age with anything like the transmuting fire of youth requires – so the adage says – much wilful forgetting in order to remember at a deeper level of meaning for readers. Grace Nichols in this new collection of her work succeeds in revisiting her Guyana past to make poems of lightness and diction and depth of feeling. The Demerara region takes on heraldic relevance and the people in it, principally her parents, along with flora and fauna, populate a landscape of metaphoric and allegorical longing. Her simple diction belies a complex emotional intellect and a feel for the balance of a line, its weightlessness in collusion with a depth of feeling. This may be Grace Nichols at her best, in poems that chime with bright imagery and lasting phrasing worthy of chanting to undermine and contradict, if not bringing down the authoritarian edifices of our dangerous times.’ – Fred D’Aguiar
‘Grace Nichols has wit, acidity, tenderness, any number of gifts at her disposal.’ – Jeanette Winterson
‘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 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
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