Mother / Service / Voice: An Ice Floe Press New Works Series: October 2020

Welcome to our new project Mother/Service/Voice. 70 + contributors will explore this theme in a range of forms and styles and approaches. We launch this project in honor of Black History Month UK.

For October 2020 we invited UK poet Jenny Mitchell to develop a prompt for our New Works Series at Ice Floe Press ( We held an open call for poets, prose writers (fiction, non- fiction), creators of visual work, hybrids and collaborations to submit unpublished work that examines the intersecting themes of ‘the Mother’, ‘Service’ and ‘Voice’. 

Enjoy the results of this curation beginning Oct. 6, 2020 with new pieces every day for the duration of the month and into the month of November.


Mother: Who are our mothers, our foremothers, our birth-mothers, our sacred/spiritual mothers? What sound/energy/emotion/history does ‘the mother’s voice’ (s) contain? Is it kind, stern, loving, beauteous, ugly, rageful, destructive, dynamic, undocumented, erased, neglected, a carrier of tradition, in/or of rebellion? (or maybe a combination of one or more).

How can unanswerable questions about mothers be approached?

       – Is she jelly-hearted… almost hating her daughter (Gwendolyn Brooks)
       – Can she grow two inches with righteous (Patricia Smith)
       – Is her smile like a dropped/perfume bottle (Pascale Petit)
       – Or is she drinking to forget a man (Lyn Emanual)

In thinking about mothers and service is there the unacknowledged, the hidden labour of mothering, from birthing to care work, the unpaid to the forgotten and the taken for granted?

How do race/class and caring impact or define mothering in our societies/histories/etc.

Is mothering selflessness (whether given freely or through unacknowledged coercion).

Who does it serve – the state? The plantation owner; the indenture-system; the capitalist; the patriarch/father; and/or the family – intimate and extended? What are the roles/codes? Are they broken and how?

Service: This could include care work, service-sector, unpaid labour, underpaid, unacknowledged ‘as/labour’, a spiritual calling, a duty, a requirement, military, a state of mind etc.

Who do we serve, the land, the ancestors? Who served others in order to give us life? Who’s serving still? How does the earth serve us and should it continue to do so? What countries/people have been made to kneel in service?

What (im)possibilities are there for those who serve?

       – If god was a cow, I could slaughter him (Pattianne Rogers)
       – My master/father sent me up from South/Carolina to Boston as a nine-year-old.
         My mother’s illiterate silence has been a death.
 (Marilyn Nelson)
       – I’ve seen lilies/bent to the ground (Peter G. Gillis)

Voice: This is such a big area that could include the speaking voice or its tone. What is remembered of the (mother’s) voice? What was spoken/unspoken? What rhythms, cadences, songs, lies, truth, histories of being spoken for, about or to, as well as being spoken over/overruled by another person/institute? How can the voice be reclaimed, excavated or done away with?

The sound we make/are forced not to make; the sounds we hear from the ancestors.

– The grandfather in ‘The Ventriloquist’s Voice’ is: the man who once threw/his voice away, so someone else, someday, would call it back. (Rebecca Tantony)
– What sign do you keep on your black lips/What poor speech when all is growing still (Galway Kinnell)
– …talcum and tea/moistened their quivering jaws, prophetic without prophecy (Ishion Hutchinson)
– When he opens his mouth/a chameleon is inside, starving (Morgan Parker)

Write about the mother in all her guises. Ask her to tell you  her secrets and stories. Let her be bold for once, or quiet for a change.

What does a lost voice sound like when it’s called back.

Prompt Developed By UK-based Poet: Jenny Mitchell

Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Segora Poetry Prize, a Bread and Roses Poetry Award, a Best of the Net Nominee and joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize. Her work has been published in The RialtoThe Interpreter’s HouseThe New EuropeanThe Morning Star etc; and broadcast on Radio 4/BBC2. A debut collection, Her Lost Language,(Indigo Dreams Publishing), was selected as one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales). Twitter: @jennymitchellgo
Jenny Mitchell – Indigo Dreams

Work Selected by Our Guest Curator: Jakky Bankong-Obi

Jakky Bankong-Obi is a communications consultant who lives and writes from Abuja, Nigeria. Her work has been featured/forthcoming in London Grip, The Kalahari Review, Amberflorazine, Zarf Poetry, Gutter Magazine, Hobartpulp, Pidgeonholes, Memento; An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry etc. She enjoys long walks, yoga & dabbling in nature photography. Jakky is on Twitter as @jakkybeefive.

With help from the Ice Floe Crew

R. Frede Kenter


Moira J. Saucer

Prompt Banner and Mother/Service/Voice Image Collage by Robert Frede Kenter.

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