Her Lost Language – Jenny Mitchell
Indigo Dreams Publishing
Jenny, in her prize-winning debut collection Her Lost Language explores the impact of British transatlantic enslavement on black lives and family dynamics. A remarkable celebration of Black and British entwined history.
The poems weave between the Caribbean and Britain over the course of two centuries, and aim to liberate ‘unheard’ voices. Voices of the transatlantic slave trade and the Windrush generation looking at England as mother country and they served and shaped their identity in the UK. The poems look at the struggles of the slaves and the Windrush generation exploring the ‘ashes’ songs from former slaves and life post liberation but making sense of who they are and where they came from to a hostile land. In ‘Incident’
‘Why is it my child locked in an airless box
and not that man, frowning in his car?
Or her, a girl I do not know
and did not push into this world?
My blood has fallen on the ground.
I am the blood torn from his heart.
These strangers want to help me stand
but where he fell, this pavement,
frames me gentle enough.’
She reminisces about the ‘blue Jamaican hills’ and the songs that resonates through the sugar cane fields, e.g. in ‘My Five Times Great-grandmother was Enslaved’, starts ‘Her legacy, held in a dress:/ flimsy twist of torn green cloth,/ palm-sized when wet.’ ends
‘The forest around the hem
led to a valley of blue hills,
on towards a trembling lake.
Beyond it stood her long-lost home:
a hut with windows, pocket-sized,
the dark rip of a doorway.
Inside, the seams were packed
with voices just like mine.
They rose as one towards me.’
A tribute to the Windrush generation of the many nurses who served the NHS and the lessons learnt from enslavement and how we can harbour hope as readers from our brutal past of Black and British history that is very much entwined.