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.

Levelling Up
Wednesday, 08 June 2022 21:20

Levelling Up

Published in Poetry

Levelling Up

by Jenny Mitchell, with image by Martin Gollan

They will not show this on the evening news –
our mother kneeling down at Number Ten –
a place of work and routine bacchanals –
to scrub red wine stains from the office carpet.
As vomit hits the wall above her head,
the PM wipes his chin, glass held in the air.

Spit flies out of his mouth, pollutes the air,
with yet another garbled toast to A new
day – just like the old, him standing at the head,
to help his chosen people keep control. Ten
men and women dance around the carpet,
close to mother’s arm, to cheer the bacchanal.

The PM sees her then, mouths Bacchanal,
shouting that A cleaner’s head is full of air!
He explains the word, feet spread on the carpet,
followed by You’ve missed a spot, old girl. New
crates of wine are plonked onto the table, ten
bottles still with dregs, music coming to a head.

Our PM starts a waddling dance, nods his head,
wine spilling from the glass to toast the bacchanal
as he sings out of tune The Winner Takes It All, ten
times, louder-still as Abba fades into the fetid air.
Mother tries to crawl away but cat-calls are renewed
for her to polish shoes, kneeling on the carpet.

The PM joins in with this call, offers her ten
pounds to lick his leather clean. He shouts The carpet
has to be made new, aims a kick close to her head,
falling in a heap, demanding to be helped. The air
is filled with threats they won’t show on the news,
even when we know about the many bacchanals.

Ten people and the PM break the law – a bacchanal
for the law-makers, sore-headed the next day, air
rank with sick still on a carpet mother must renew.

Here's the link to How Being a Girl Poet Saved My Life, an extract from an article by Jenny Mitchell, first commissioned and published by Poetry Wales.

And you can hear Jenny reading a poem from her latest award-winning book, Map of a Plantation, in a short and very moving film here.

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