Jenny Mitchell

Jenny Mitchell

Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Ware Poetry Prize, the Folklore Prize, the Segora Prize, the Aryamati Prize, the Fosseway Prize, a Bread and Roses Award and joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2019. A best-selling debut collection, Her Lost Language, is one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales). A second collection, Map of a Plantation, published by Indigo Dreams, has been shortlisted for the Poetry Book Awards.

Emancipating Ancestors
Monday, 23 August 2021 14:23

Emancipating Ancestors

Published in Poetry

Emancipating Ancestors
for all those who died on slave plantations

by Jenny Mitchell

I’ll free them all
by digging deep enough
to haul their battered bodies
from the years of disturbed soil.

As they emerge – some dark, some light –
I’ll gather every part:
the shattered bones
and ancient clothes,

the smell of monthly blood
I’m sure still flows
when women young
enough to breed are killed.

I’ll stroke their wasted skin
so like my own,
and cradle every one –
my arms that wide, that strong.

The love I have for them
will be a nursery rhyme
with hushing sounds,
and promises of home.

I’ll pull out all the leaves
lodged in their throats,
replace them with my words
to let them speak.

Or if repulsed by that well-meaning force,
they’re free to push my hand away.
I’ll understand the leaves
help ground lost voices.

Then I will sit a child again,
to breathe their wisdom and their weakness –
all the same if I dare open like a grave,
allowing them to seep so deep inside,
I’ll be reborn.

from Her Lost Language (Indigo Dreams Publishers)

 

Slave Trade, by George Morland
Sunday, 15 August 2021 13:21

Black Rapunzel

Published in Poetry

Black Rapunzel

by Jenny Mitchell

Family gathers in these plaits,
each parting like a grave
for people forced to work
the cane, colour of my scalp,
sun beating on their crowns.

I’ll twist the strands into a rope,
de-colonising hair, a diaspora
wending back to help
the ones in chains
escape the transatlantic.

Black Rapunzel, I’ll uncoil my locks
in prison yards, urge those on SUS
or sectioned, deep ancestor
voices trapped in too-loose plaits,
to shimmy over walls,

hide beneath my headwrap,
floral length of Africa before the trade.
I’ll carry them to safety,
woven in my braids. We’ll grieve
till loss flies out, unbound at last.

The Burden of Ownership
Tuesday, 15 September 2020 12:17

The Burden of Ownership

Published in Poetry

The Burden of Ownership

by Jenny Mitchell

He measures cost in body parts. A head pays
for a month of food; two eyes a week of drink.
Christmas adds a throat. Carved out with care
the neck still holds a yoke if the chin is firm
weight evenly proportioned.

Four breasts pay for his wife's new car, a mad
extravagance she must not think will be the norm.
Her furs demand a score of navels.
One manly chest is paid for every house –
he only wants the very best.

A waist is worth the price of land: an acre for two wombs.
Twelve manhoods buy a gushing stream
to serve his many fields. A sack of feet placed
in a bank account, maintains his balance
and the boast: he's always in the black.

Listen to Jenny reading the poem