Friday Feature, Poetry

Friday Feature – Jenny Mitchell

Jenny Mitchell – Map of a Plantation

Publication Friday 16th April

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.

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 #bookerlove recommendation.

Burden of Ownership

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 this season’s clothes – a mad
extravagance he means to make the norm.
His furniture demands a score of navels.
One manly chest is paid for every horse.
He only wants the ones with heart.

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

Encountering a Slave Girl Held

In a museum cabinet, glass-topped
abandoned coffin. Lying straight.
Thin-faced, bark-hued.
Plaits against her scalp except a reckless horn.

Eyes blink obsidian.
Quick movement of the mouth.
She’s missing teeth or two in front. A hand cracks glass.
Slowly, she steps down, dress caught in the shards.

I back away as fingers work the jag, head lowered
left cheek bruised down to the chin she lifts with pride
exhibiting a rope burn –
choker set with gleaming coals.

Her voice cracks low – This time, I will not leave my breath
when I decide to run. Feet hardly dared
to touch the ground like waves
pulled out from under me.

This time, the trees will fold
bend bark knees.
No branch to snag my dress or point towards my back
surely as an arrow. I will aim

to reach the wall before it’s dark.
Climb each brick, big as a baby’s coffin.
No dog will bite my heel.
No rope turned to a choker.

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