Jenny Mitchell has won several poetry competitions, most recently the Folklore Prize. A debut collection, Her Lost Language (Indigo Dreams) is One of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales); and a Jhalak Prize #bookwelove recommendation.
Her second collection, Map of a Plantation (IDP), will be published in April 2021.
Jenny Mitchell Recites Her Remains
The Jenny Mitchell Interview
We would like to thank Jenny for making the time to answer our questions despite being busy writing and promoting her poetry.
Anita: Please tell us a little about your poetry journey; the start and how you transitioned to becoming a published, well-established poet.
Jenny: I began to write poetry again about four years ago, after a long break, and years spent researching British transatlantic enslavement for an unpublished novel. I thought that was the direction I would go in but now think the novel was laying the ground for my poetry.
I began by writing loads and attending writing groups. Then I started to submit poems to magazines and had a few accepted. I was told about Sarasvati, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing and they took a few pieces which was a real boost.
Anita: What was the key-step to publication?
Jenny: I entered the annual Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Competition run by Indigo Dreams Publishing, sending in fifteen poems. Happily, I was chosen as joint winner for 2019. This was another amazing boost as it meant they would publish my first collection, Her Lost Language.
It really increased my confidence to have the collection with me when I went to readings (back in the good old days of live performances!).
I also took myself more seriously as a poet, and began to promote my work on Twitter. This opened up a whole new audience and I’m glad to say it’s been a great way to share poems in the last year or so.
Anita: What makes a poem publishable?
Jenny: I wish I knew because then I’d never get a rejection!
It really helps me to read lots of poems; even those I don’t like can be helpful. I also think it’s good to write what you feel, rather than what you think will be accepted. Having said that, it’s important to have a sense of what other poets are writing, and I try to learn all the time.
For me, it can also be really helpful to send work to a publication that has a specific prompt. It gives me something to work towards, although I never stick too rigidly to the brief.
Anita: What are today’s poetry publishers looking for?
Jenny: I think this might be a question for the publishers rather than me.
Anita: What resources can help budding poets?
Jenny: Twitter is a great resource in that you can find out about who is looking for submissions, and you can also get to try out online courses.
It might also be good to read the poems other people are posting/talking about. Whether you like them or not, it’s a great way to find out what’s out there.
Writing groups can be very helpful, although I don’t know what it’s like to share work with a group online.
Anita: Do you advise people to work with mentors or hire an agent?
Jenny: I try not to give too much advice, apart from, read lots of poems. I’m not an expert when it comes to mentors or agents.
Anita: How can people improve their poems?
Jenny: I think that the best thing to do is write loads, read loads and listen to any constructive feedback without getting too defensive.
Anita: What is your process for writing a poem?
Jenny: I don’t think it’s helpful for me to talk in detail about my process as we all have to find our own way. I do spend a lot of time writing and reading. Walking also helps a lot.
Anita: What is your top piece of advice?
Write, write, write!