THE PLOT: ‘The Fat Black Woman’s Poems’ by Grace Nichols is an acclaimed poetry collection which was first published in the 1980’s. A Caribbean immigrant in England, Nichols’ poems focus on race, migration and womanhood. As the title suggests, she explores being out of place in a white, thin world, as well as taking joy in the unique beauty of being a fat black woman.
RATING: I’m giving this four stars but please note that I can’t analyse or critique poetry in the same way as a novel. I don’t read a lot of poetry and I don’t know what makes a good poem. However, I can say that I enjoyed this collection.
GOOD BITS: It was a particularly grey day and I was feeling grim about the mouth and like knocking people’s hats off, so I picked up this book and the poems made me feel sad and happy and seen. I love the style, which uses patois and onomatopoeia to make the reader feel like the words are being spoken aloud. In particular, the layout of a poem about sugar cane felt like the plant was growing in front of me due to the layout of the words on the page.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: I wish there had been a foreward or introduction, as I didn’t know much about Grace Nichols and would’ve enjoyed some context. For example, Grace Nichols won the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2021 (which, I assume, prompted this reprint) and it would have been interesting to have an analysis of her work leading up to this point.
OVERALL: It is a short/thin, accessible book, which would be good for those starting to explore poetry as well as poetry-lovers. Thank you to Virago Press who sent me this book in a #gifted bundle for UK Black History Month.