Queen holds face-to-face audience with Guyanese poet Grace Nichols

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Queen Elizabeth II presents the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry to Grace Nichols during a private audience at Windsor Castle. Photo credit: PA Wire/PA Images Picture by: Steve Parsons

The Queen has met the Guyanese poet Grace Nichols as she carried out another face-to-face engagement.

The monarch welcomed Nichols to her Windsor Castle home to present her with the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

They were joined by the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who chaired the Poetry Medal Committee, which unanimously recommended the writer as the winner of the prestigious award.

In the Oak Room, the Queen was pictured standing without her walking stick for the in-person audience on Wednesday.

A large window in the backdrop overlooked the immaculate lawn of the castle’s quadrangle, and the monarch’s outfit matched that of her guest, with both wearing shades of cream.

The Queen gave a broad smile as she shook hands with Nichols, and the pair examined the medal together.

The Queen has kept busy at her Berkshire base after missing the Commonwealth Day service on Monday due to issues over her comfort rather than a specific illness.

On Tuesday, she had afternoon tea with Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon and her husband, the journalist Whit Fraser, and also held two virtual audiences with ambassadors.

The 95-year-old head of state, who reached her Platinum Jubilee last month, has faced a bout of Covid in recent weeks, and also spent more than three months from October under doctors’ orders to only conduct light duties.

Nichols is being recognised for her body of work, in particular her first collection of poetry I Is A Long-Memoried Woman (1983), prose and several books for younger readers.

She previously described the honour as “both wonderful and humbling”.

On being announced as recipient of the 2021 award in December, she added:

“In my own work I’ve celebrated my Guyanese/Caribbean/South American heritage in relation to the English traditions we inherited as a former British colony.

“To poetry and the English language that I love, I’ve brought the registers of my own Caribbean tongue.

“I wish my parents who use to chide me for straining my eyes, as a small girl reading by torchlight in bed, were around to share in this journey that poetry has blessed me with.”

The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry was established by the Queen’s grandfather King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield.

Previous recipients include Philip Larkin, Siegfried Sassoon, WH Auden, and Nichols’ husband John Agard.

It is awarded for excellence in poetry. Each year’s recipient is from the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth country.

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