It stopped me in my tracks. I was there by the graveside full of emotion and discomfort and – now I feel disturbed but compassionate

One voter’s words that very much summed up why Jenny Mitchell’s ‘What Part of Me?’ is the IS&T Pick of the Month for May 2024.

Voters found it raw, searing, emotive, visceral and powerful. It spoke to the personal experiences of some; for other it pulled at contrasting emotions. Helen Ivory wrote: ‘[The poem} is searingly honest and extremely  moving poem about an abusive mother. I admire how tightly made this poem is – letting the mother’s words do a lot of the talking, and how those many words do not sit in the same place as the word kind. The last utterance of the poem is ambiguous and sinister and point to an eternal connectedness.’

Jenny Mitchell won the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize 2023, and the Poetry Book Awards for Map of a Plantation, a Manchester Metropolitan University set text. The prize-winning collection, Her Lost Language, is One of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales). Her latest collection, Resurrection of a Black Man, contains three prize-winning poems.

Jenny has asked that her £20 ‘prize’ be donated to Barnado’s.


What Part of Me?

Sun demands a front row seat above the graveyard through the trees
when my mother’s placed in soil, surrounded by her friends’ small talk –
She must have sent the rays for us. Women in their Sunday best, men
in greying suits gather at the grave, heads down, hands lost in heart-
shaped garlands. Someone says She was so kind. I want to shout
You didn’t know the half of it! but wailing stops me from repeating
words she used to say – I never wanted you. Abortion doesn’t seem so bad.

That was when I left the final time. Her friends begin to nudge me
to the edge. Am I meant to jump? One says Give your mum a final word.
I hear the hum of cars, muffled by the trees, blink looking down to know
she’s trapped, sun shining off the lid. Will she push it back, stand up to shout
Go away again? I cannot speak so mouth the words she used to say. Ugly
goes into her grave. Bad. Too fat. Too sensitive. I turn but am called back,
could swear it is her voice that says What part of you has gone into the grave?


Other voters’ comments included:

Jenny’s poem speaks to me from a place of double grief: one for the loss of a parent; another for the loss of the good parent who never was. She speaks of the depth of that particular kind of grief and despair that will never heal. I hear it. And I feel seen by it.

She captures so much about the public versus private tensions of familial abuse in such clear, restrained language & the ending clinches it powerfully.

I know the pain of having an abusive parent and it has been captured so delicately in Jenny’s poem. The poem is desperately sad and defiantly angry at the same time, and it brought me to tears. Even the way she has cast light upon the part of yourself you lose when someone you know dies; I think Jenny has handled some incredibly difficult topics so effectively. It is sensational.

This really spoke to me, partly because of shared experience. It’s perfectly put together – un-whiny, just listing the horrors and the action taken. Brilliant.

Juxtaposition of the ordinary with the elemental, visceral poignancy of what is happening. Life’s like that. Extraordinary moments, surrounded by the mundane.

The narrator pulls me in [to the grave]. It’s a shocking and important poem.

It is a topic that must get talked about more and it was striking

Jenny is an incredible poet and this poem showcases her ability to immerse the reader in a raw and emotive journey alongside her

Mitchell pulls me in. The closing line is powerful. This is a poem that had to be written.

Just hit me emotionally like an anvil to the head

The words pulled me in to memories; into the grave. The poem was raw and evocative – community expectations v personal experience.

Very powerful poem and the idea of somebody being seen in different ways by different people resonates with me.

it touches me on a more personal level than the others


Am I meant to jump?” -this hit me. I like the contrast of the woman the wailers knew with their platitudes vs the woman behind closed doors. It’s all so honest and visual-it’s like I’m there. Also I got goosebumps on that last line.

I found it searching and complicated — true to the experience of difficult family relationships

So visceral, immediate. Painfully reminiscent of my own mother.

The simplicity in the powerful storytelling.

It’s powerful, it hits home, skilfully conveys a lot in few words.

It had a strand of wire strength running through the powerful poem. The empathy grows naturally

An astonishingly vivid poem about loss and emotional confusion.

It hooked me in from the punchy first line! It is full of subtle nuances, personification and wordplay! Go Jenny !!!

A taut poem in terms of structure, topic and emotional heft

Such a stunning work – to say so much in the sonnet format. We feel the grief and every single moment, rips our heart out but also delivers an elegance and beauty. Deeply personal and resonant, an extremely powerful work that deserves further recognition.






We are eating dessert when the urge overcomes her
to scrawl mathematics, the night ticks on
—I drink my whisky, her Merlot grows warm—
until, sudden-smiling, she holds out a paper:
a simple equation with nothing crossed out;

laid out like a mantrap for ultimate truths,
as if to say: Darling! I mastered it all
the stars and the spaces, energy, time—
why, everything, down to those several young faces,
who call you only on your other phone.

Watch her face while we pause there:
in this moment not questioned or answered.

So maybe there is one: some master equation;
some sequence of symbols a lover might write
on a napkin close-angled to catch at street lighting,
one elbow leant on an outdoor table,
ignoring the promise of rain in the cool summer air

—a young woman passes, all little black dress—

some sort of equation to grab the whole mess:
the warping, the weaving of mass for an atom;
the elegant building of colours for light
to shade any evening
which I might have hurried through

to get here tonight.  She may lick her lips
—I might feel ice mutter in my glass—
but our moment breaks.  She crushes the napkin,
takes a drink and a breath, says:
There are in the maths no stains for the tablecloth,
no moth by the light bulb, no artificial flower…

—She shrugs, expansively, moderate drunkly,
her black bob asway, flesh rounds beneath fabric—

…and how can my numbers ever come quite to terms
with the small sharp man with his small sharp knives
opening the oysters in the back.  Distant lightning,

a rumble…  She drops crumpled paper.  We flee
a little too damply, play-fighting and hugging,
beneath such a midnight enfolded in cloud
but not annotated on any scale which we can reach
from her bed.  Elsewhere, rain continues,

a discarded napkin straightens, symbols blur, merge,
and the world moves on, while we make a better maths
for a little while.


Ian Badcoe (he/they) is a non-binary poet from Sheffield.  He has a songwriting collaboration with German Indie singer/composer Hallam London.  They recently released the album they have been working on for the last decade.  Website:  Hallam’s website:






Mymona Bibi is a Bengali-British writer and teacher based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Her writing has been featured in the Ilkley Literature Festival and longlisted for the Butchers’ Dog. She’s a core member of the collective Brown Girls Write and has performed spoken word at events such as the Newcastle Fringe Festival and NOVUM.



Red Kite

Mrs. Hooping helped with my coursework
since Mr. Smith lived on pizza boxes.
Found rocking a dead pigeon on the cardboard,
now he’s back at his mum’s, auditioning
to be a postman. Witnessed a Red Kite
in my underwear drawer from our
session in the woods. Someone took a feather
to the hairdressers. Gum cross-sectioned
my cheek; he forgot about removal to kiss.
Had to avoid tree roots, placed us on green.
He mentioned his bullied niece kept reaching
for her blanket; Mr. Smith is quaking regression,
so I wait. His mum, an unhappy housewife,
adored cooking arancini. He tried to find one,
but they prioritised mortgages
over deer jokes. Smuggled the Red Kite out
with an Anne Tyler book (my train for transition).
Disposed it with my chocolates after the bus home.
Wrote ‘Red kite’ on the same coursework
until it resembled notes. Mr. Smith’s leaning
in for a blanket, teeth like washing machines.
I revise his chapter, ‘dreams in which I’m dying,’
where I counsel him best, always fishing in my bag.


Marianne Habeshaw is a queer poet from Peterborough, living in London. She’s Barbican Young Poet (23 & 24) and founder of ‘Thoughtcast Collective,’ and was highly commended in the Outspoken Page Poetry Prize. She has upcoming anthology publications with Flipped Eye.



A Taste of Apocalypse

Such stillness in the air. The attic window
is a cupped ear set to alert the house to subtle
shifts in atmosphere: auguries; signs; any tiny
notice of cataclysmic change. All it amplifies today
is a lone jay’s irritated screech, computer hum,
the clap of pheasants, a buzzard’s mew.

The search engine finds a sub-thread
arguing potential plurals of Apocalypse.
It seems so far off–the ending of all things–
even in this raw valley where every human life
but mine has felt like it was gone for good
in days too formless and dispiriting to count.

I play the list over in my mouth. Apocalypse.
Apocalypses. Apocalypti. Apocalypsis. The last
tastes good, like punctuation on the tongue;
three dots of flavour denoting things hidden,
destructions left unsaid. Almost as if
the real end will come from the margins,

unannounced and slipshod, ignoring prophets,
gods and silver-spoon-fed men who dream of power
as they roll on their backs like beetles battling
over balls of dung. Enough. I spit Apocalypse
out of the window. It transforms, wheels away.
A battered falcon that cannot turn for crows.


Adam Horovitz is a writer, performer and teacher who lives in a semi-wild corner of Gloucestershire. He has published three collections of poetry, a memoir and assorted pamphlets. He appeared on Cerys Matthews’ album We Come From the Sun (Decca, 2021).



In My Hand I Hold Two Truths

I make broth, feel odd wiping it off your face
moments after swiping through bodies, preferences,
dates. Sunset-orange forget-me-nots mar the napkin cloth
I dab along your stubbled jaw. If forget-me-nots
bloomed blood orange. If soup stains could be flowers. If flowers
were a prayer you could pluck and stick in a vase, their waning, gasping beauty
a cure, a means for you to remember.

A giant cups a concave mirror, holds our bubble land
in light-repellent open fist until the colours run. Watercolours
were never your medium; you craved the certainty of oils.

My fingers blot your blemishes,
wipe away shame while
refracted fragments, remembered juices silver my chin.

I am swiping and my father is dying
I am fucking and my father is mad and dying
I am rebirthing myself into myself and my father cannot remember my name.
I am becoming and cumming and my father knows nothing, his foundations fragments.

I make broth / feel odd / wipe off your face // swipe
bodies / preferences / dates // stains / blot / silvered chin
juices / nights marked / torn lace
your face stares / my face / sees / only fragments / remain.


George Violet Parker (they/them/Mx) is an award-winning disabled and queer writer, performer, and co-director of Queer Stage Revolution. For their books, bookings, and shows, follow them