INDIGO DREAMS PUBLISHING LTD
GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2021
138 x 216mm
£11.00 + P&P UK
Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Folklore Prize 2020, the Segora Prize 2020, the Aryamati Prize 2020, the Fosseway Prize 2020, a Bread and Roses Award and Joint Winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize.
She has been nominated for the Forward Prize: Best Single Poem, and her best-selling debut collection, Her Lost Language, is one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales), and a Jhalak Prize #bookwelove recommendation.
Her poems have also been published in Magma, The Rialto, The Morning Star, The New European among others, as well as several anthologies. She has performed her work in Italy, France and regularly in London.
Map of a Plantation
Unfurled, the ink is bright
four corners white as lace.
Not relic of the past
directions for the future.
Most prominent – a boundary
serpentine. God laid down to rest.
Look closer. He has vulnerabilities –
a gate dashed on the ground.
The trail leads not to fields
drawn golden as the sun.
Black bars criss-cross
to indicate a jail next to a graveyard.
Dots define the dead, leading to a dump
sketched to evoke a seething hill.
The chapel school is headed by a banner –
God protects the ones who kneel.
A treadmill like a thumbprint
beside a colony of shacks.
The threat of heat in one
might lead to conflagration.
On towards a jagged crop
divided by pink streams. The blood
red roses in straight rows
point towards an ornamental garden.
frame a white house
guarded by an English oak.
This giant is the hanging tree
apt symbol of a master.
He dominates the map.
Roots creep along a path.
She throws a shadow on the morning
Glories in her flower bed
Bends to yank the fullest life
Out of land she names as dirt
Places every stalk inside a swinging basket
Pall-beared on her arm
Smiling at this murderation as the crows stare down
Knowing she’s their kind in human form
As she stamps the blighted roses
Till their colours scream
Walks triumphant to the house
Puts the dead to stand in glass.
The Late Master
Some say he was a ravening bird
who feasted on the bodies of his slaves.
The truth is more prosaic – a stooped
and shuffling man, prematurely grey.
His clothes just never seemed to fit.
He suffered with his feet, both bunions and corns.
Sleep disturbed towards the end
he rose before the cock began to crow.
The nurse who cared for him laughed
there were bottles everywhere.
He wet himself at night
mattress rank with piss.
Some say he’s gone to hell – well, yes
if hell is six feet underground
in a small teak box. He chose that wood
because it withstands termites.
Death of a Slave
Church Mary tells weak legs to take her to the garden.
Her back with little strength, cricks, settles near the plants.
Flowers in her head-wrap droop – Queen Anne’s lace –
white buds on the wedding gown she never owned, her life
strapped to the master’s bed.
Sunshine mimosa, over there – a dark pink patch
grows tall before her eyes, sways softly in the breeze.
She strokes the leaves so tenderly. They fold
too sensitive for any touch as she has been –
the master’s hands were hoary, rough.
A flight of butterflies, red flames above the lavender
fragrant and so wild. She prays for it to cover all the land –
a final gift for her six children sold.
Eyes dim, she sees this offspring up ahead.
It is not a dream. She hurries on towards them.
Imagining a Forest Made of Freedom
They’re bubbling, black roots reforming
pushing at the soil. Bones misshapen
with slave labour, straighten and grow strong
ripping through the ground.
Fractures caused by beatings fuse, shape young trees
swelling to enormous trunks, fed with blood unjustly spilt.
Welts, deep-planted by a whip, design a hardy bark.
Starvation in reverse makes fertile leaves
wave, carefree at last.
Our Mother the Cartographer
lies down for the last time,
called a well-earned rest.
Body like a mountain range
spread across a hard-washed sheet
laid bare as the sun beams from her shape –
new delirium but not the worst.
She can see the father of her children –
man she knew as master –
pockmarked with his death,
float above the bed
arm raised to the ceiling –
called a dimming sky –
falling to etch scars upon her skin.
Here she draws us close – daughters
in the future
conjured by a fever.
Points towards the dip
between her breasts
calls it A lost place of peace.
Cups the sagging mounds.
These were never mine.
Forced to breed too many children.
Here, we have to kneel
anticipating mourning –
night has just begun.
Watch her belly rise.
Fall into a crater.
She heaves on her side –
flesh unsettled range.
Welts across her back are deep-kicked paths.
Yes, I tried to run.
Land beyond the gate belonged to him.
Now we start to keen
shrill as birds thrown in the air.
But she calls for quiet.
Voices settle on the floor.
As she lies back down
softly we can hear –
Trace a path until the end.
Map of a Plantation
Map of a Plantation is Jenny Mitchell’s follow up to her prize-winning debut collection Her Lost Language. The collection gives voice to contrasting characters on a Jamaican cane plantation in order to examine the widespread and ongoing impact of enslavement. These poems are both tender and uncompromising, always seeking to use the past to heal present-day legacies of a contested and emotive history. This collection contains the winner of the Segora Prize 2020, the Aryamati Prize 2020 and the winner of a Bread and Roses Poetry Award.
'Map of a Plantation details the symbiotic relationship between enslaved people and enslavers - harrowing, disturbing and heart-rending. There's no hiding from the violence but there's also a 'tiny eden' flowered with love of a mother and memories of being loved.
A joy to read, this book is a spiritual parchment of pain that transforms into a wild dance of hope.'
Poet, Playwright and Writer
‘The poems in this collection are a powerful evocation of the lives of people who were enslaved. With devastating clarity and precision, Jenny Mitchell lays bare the brutal, dehumanising nature of slavery and gives voice to those who have been silenced throughout history. It is only by confronting this history that we can begin to address its painful legacy of racism and inequality.’
Helen Hayes MP
Bread and Roses Award comments: Burden of Ownership
'We have become accustomed to speaking about the wealth of empire as born from the bodies of enslaved and exploited people. Burden of Ownership itemises human suffering cut by cut [and gives] us the horrible rationality of colonial power.
A chilling and acute poem.'