Jenny Mitchell’s poetry has appeared in several anthologies and online, most recently in Sarasvati, The Dawntreader (Indigo Dreams); and with parallel Italians translation in Interno Poesie. She was recently highly commended in the Shelter for Home Poetry competition. Two other poems were commended in the Waltham Forest Poetry competition, and another was shortlisted in a Bread and Roses/Unite Union Poetry competition. A poem, The Backslappers, was dramatised on BBC2; and a play, English Rose, was broadcast on Radio 4. She was poet-in-residence of the Westway; and her travel articles have appeared in The Guardian and The Observer. She regularly performs her work in London, and has co-curated projects with The British Museum, the V&A and Tate Modern.
Work published in: City Lines (ILEA English Centre); Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (ILEA English Centre); Teaching Poetry in Secondary Schools (Dept of Education and Science); Apples and Snakes (Pluto Press); Trespass Magazine (Miscellany Publishing); Voice Memory Ashes (Mango Press); The Fox in the Caretaker’s Shed (Middlesex University Press); Harlot Red (Serpent’s Tail); Tackling Domestic Violence: Greenwich Resource and Information Pack (Greenwich Council); English File: Language and Gender (BBC Education); MAMSIE: Studies in the Maternal (Birkbeck University of London) etc.
Poem The Backslappers used as a set text in secondary schools.
Broadcast and Performed Work: Play English Rose short-listed as Best New Writer to Radio (broadcast on Radio 4); The Backslappers (broadcast on ‘The English File’, BBC2); Signs of Violence (Work-shopped at Soho Theatre, long-listed for the Verity Bargate Award); play Diaspora long-listed for the Alfred Fagon Award at the Royal Court).
Poet-in-residence of the Westway in North Kensington (Poetry Society Community Regeneration Initiative).
Travel articles published in: The Guardian, The Observer and Pride Magazine
I’ve seen the wedding photograph that proves
my mother used to laugh before the war – her head
thrown back, mouth open to the room and eyes squeezed shut.
She’s sitting down, her hands placed neatly on thin knees.
The office suit looks grey beneath the cloudy glass;
the sharp-edged hat is tilted or about to fall.
My father, standing at her side, is smiling at his feet –
amused, embarrassed, scared – it’s hard to tell:
he never talks about the way he feels.
He’s swamped within the uniform, the collar wide, the sleeves
too long, and looks like anybody’s son – the simple one
who went to fight even though he was too young.
I’d like to know what made them tick but wouldn’t want
the photograph to speak. I’d be too sad to hear they were
in love, or that the start was filled with hope.
It’s just I’ve seen her smile so many times. She even makes
a gleeful sound, without much will or strength.
I wonder what I’ve missed not to ever hear her really laugh?
Song for a Patriarch
I’d like to free grandfather from his birth
decades after slavery ended,
Jamaican cane fields seeped in blood
to sweeten British tea.
His village was more dirt than land.
No music but the voice of God,
when he would curse a church
before he knelt.
It might have made him kind,
a hymn reclaim his heart.
Prayers sooth all his words.
Instead he worshipped rage.
His children say he treated them like slaves,
broke canes across their backs,
refused to let them stray
too far from home.
He might be left behind,
thrown from his mother’s arms again
as madness ripped her sleeves,
worked legs along an orange road.
Rum confused his search,
a roadside womaniser to the end,
hurling coins at barefoot women
ground to dust.
He did not recognise his wife
as having any feelings.
She was nothing
much to hurt.
He taught their sons to beat
whatever answered back.
His daughters fell for men like him,
to their regret.
They all despised his fear
when cancer forced
from his mouth.