Does the name Grace Nichols ring any bells?
To be honest, before I read Passport from Here to There, I had never heard of this highly rated and accomplished Guyanese born, British-naturalized poetess.
Her latest collection includes love songs to many people and things. In particular, many focus on her childhood growing up in Guyana and her return to her homeland as an adult.
The collection begins with a memory of her childhood self in “Rites of Passage”:
“If I were to meet the ghost
of my childhood running
with slipping shoulder-straps
and half-plaited hair
beside a brown expanse
of memorising water…”
I have never been to Guyana but I can just imagine Nichols as a young girl running along the coastline of one of its many rivers or the muddy Atlantic.
Then there are poems dedicated to her life in the UK but with a deep ambivalence from her days growing up in colonial Guyana. In “Tea with Demerara Sugar” she writes:
“I know your cost in tears, brown sugar, the bloody sweat
behind each crystal grain – you whose shadow still haunts the sun…”
I can taste her nostalgia and joy as an adult returning to Guyana in “Landing”:
“The Liat plane dipping towards the rim of the Atlantic and the beginning of Georgetown sends the wings unfurling from my heart towards the city of my girlhood haunts...
Homing in to my first-time landing at Ogle, nothing can stop my Demerara smile
waxing wide as that sweetening estuary…”
Some of these poems were so good I had to read them twice.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this collection from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.