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 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.
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.
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.