Family Name

Family Name 

Family Name features three unique poets – Jenny Mitchell, Roy McFarlane, and Zoë Brigley – who consider the act of naming, alongside explorations of family, whether biologically linked or chosen. They also question how names are twisted and debased to dehumanise in domestic and historical settings.


Mitchell conjures the experiences of mothers, grandmothers and foremothers who practise an inherent alchemy to recover power and autonomy, especially in relation to the body. She examines how identity may be stolen, but can also be hard-won.


McFarlane returns to forebears dedicating poems to Chet Baker, Sylvia Plath, the men of the Ellesmere Canal Yard, and, in the moving ‘Haibun for The Fields’, to Ishmael Zechariah McFarlane (“my life father”). McFarlane also tackles language, place and conquest, as in ‘Call me by my name’ where a hurricane refuses the Briticised monikers (Charlie, Gilbert, Dean) allotted it.


Brigley’s poems explore Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797): her life, her family and the background that created this pioneering feminist. Wollstonecraft is so much more than suggested by Horace Walpole’s callous naming of her as a “hyena in petticoats”.


Family Name offers a call to arms, a refusal to accept injustice and a determination to reclaim identity as a site of power.

Jenny Mitchell

Jenny Mitchell won the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize 2023 for a single poem, and the Poetry Book Awards 2021 for her second collection, Map of a Plantation, which is on the syllabus at Manchester Metropolitan University. The best-selling, prize-winning debut collection, Her Lost Language, is One of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales), and her latest collection, Resurrection of a Black Man, contains three prize-winning poems and is featured on the US podcast Poetry Unbound. She’s won numerous competitions, is widely-published and recently performed at the Houses of Parliament. 

For Black Women with Straightened Hair


I suffered, a hot comb searing scalp

like history or war to straighten out my kinks,

called picky hair – not fussy or meticulous.

Short and rough, a mess that’s unacceptable,

according to the master’s rules.


His mistress bids me brush her crackling mane,

one hundred strokes against black skin

until she’s so relaxed, she can’t undress herself.

I take the hooks from eyes, put moths inside her gown

to eat the crawling things that might destroy the cloth

at night.


She bids me kneel beside her bed to show a nappy crown.

Then bids again, says Going, Going, Gone.

I’ll be worth more

if locks are straight. Good hair is close to white,

and needing that protection, I douse my head with lye,

raise welts, those self-inflicted brands. I suffered.

Roy McFarlane

Roy McFarlane is a Poet, Playwright and former Youth & Community Worker born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage, living in Brighton. He’s the National Canal Laureate, a former Birmingham Poet Laureate and one of the Bards of Brum performing in the Opening Ceremony for Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.


His debut collection, Beginning With Your Last Breath, was followed by The Healing Next Time, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes award and longlisted for the Jhalak Prize. His third collection Living by Troubled Waters (Nine Arches Press 2022) is out now.

Isle of Skye


for Cee


We visited the small bay with a beach

you’d miss in a blink of an eye, if flying by.

We watched a ferry inject life,

feeding and taking from the winged Isles.


Artiste abode, cafes and shanty shacks,

white dreadlocked hippies pointed

to hidden lairs and trails whilst high

on the sweet scent that filled the air.


We looked as far as the eye could see

where blue waters and cerulean skies

held hands somewhere over the horizon

and behind us the hills kissed the heavens.


We should never have left the Isle

of oystercatchers on coral beeches,

water playground of seals and sea eagles

for in the blink of a lifetime, I lost it all

when we left the Isle of Skye.


Zoë Brigley

Zoë Brigley is editor of Poetry Wales, a poetry editor for Seren Books, and she lectures in the English department at the Ohio State University. She has three poetry collections, all of which were PBS Recommendations, most recently Hand & Skull (2019). Her recent poetry chapbooks include Aubade After A French Movie (2020) and Into Eros (Verve 2021). She was editor of 100 Poems to Save the Earth (Seren 2021; edited with Kristian Evans). She published a collection of nonfiction essays Notes from a Swing State (Parthian 2019) and a collaborative nonfiction pamphlet with Kristian Evans, Otherworlds (2021). She is winner of an Eric Gregory Award for the best British poets under 30 and was listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize for the best international writers under 40.

The Men of the Family Wollstonecraft


She comes from a long line of men named

Edward Wollstonecraft. The eldest Edward

is her grandfather: master weaver and later

landlord of Spitalfields. The next Edward is

her father, another weaver who longed to be

a gentleman farmer, prone to drunken rages,

profligate, quick to hit his wife and dogs,

subject to his daughter’s contempt, always

“a good hater”. And her eldest brother,

Edward or Ned, light of her father’s eye:

he will despise his sister’s notoriety so much,

he’ll emigrate to Australia, granted 10,000

acres on the Shoalhaven River, on land

still inhabited by the Jerrinja people.