Like all superhero stories, there is a period where the hero must decide the kind of person they want to be. When it comes to being a woman, we are made to question all that makes us who we are from a very young age. That is the literary exploration of DAUGHTER, Chelsea Mtada's debut poetry book, supported by black and female-owned publisher Carnelian Heart.
Chelsea Mtada is a 22-year-old British-Zimbabwean visual poet known for her striking visuals that capture the complications of familial relationships, identity, sexuality, and empowerment.
Chelsea's DAUGHTER is a complex, well-crafted piece of work that showcases her intellectual fierceness while communicating honestly and tenderly with her audience. After the release of her self-produced short poetry films in 2019, Chelsea was keen to put her poetry into a written format but was met with rejections from traditional publishing houses.
As cosmic fate or coincidence would have it, the morning after Chelsea had decided that she would go down the self-publishing route, the Wales-based publishing house, Carnelian Heart, contacted the young writer.
Publishing Director & Editor; Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure of Carnelian Heart commented on Chelsea's collection, saying, "her written work exceeded my expectations, and it made Carnelian Heart's decision to acquire Daughter fairly straightforward."
She continues to say, "Daughter speaks to and empowers the inner child with immaculate poetic devices; there is no escaping Mtada's auditory, tactile and visual imagery. Using a powerful instructive voice to address the intergenerational traumas of black people."
From the screen to the book, Chelsea encourages her audience to enter the surreal and sometimes nightmarish world of love, trauma, sacrifice, and gratitude in the journey of women. 'DAUGHTER' is a poetic tale of Chelsea 's spiritual journey in embracing the complexities that have made her the powerful woman she is today. In the midst of pre-releasing her debut poetry collection on the 6th June 2021, we had the chance to speak to Chelsea about how her experiences from girl to womanhood ended up being the creative core of her stunning poetry collection.
Why do you think being a woman is not being a superhero but being the superpower?
Well, besides being too smart to run around wearing capes (which are safety hazards, by the way), all people who identify as women have an emotional and spiritual strength that gives us resilience that can't be quantified or completely understood. Whether you define your womanhood by the clothes you wear, the children you bear, or the mood you are in when you face the day each morning, we all have something in common: this world would be nothing without us, and it's a world that does not acknowledge that enough.
What are the themes that are the most personal to you in this collection?
Identity is the key theme in this collection. As a child, your identity is mostly determined by your family. As you get older and your relationships and responsibilities expand, you are then defined by your romantic relationships, the country you live in, the job you have, etc. However, in all of those ideas, there was a question I asked myself when writing this book. Who am I? Who am I now that this has happened to me? Who do I want to be?
When did you start writing poems?
I've been writing since I was a child. Since I knew I could dive into my imagination and put it all onto paper, then give it to someone so that they could get a glimpse of what I was seeing or feeling. I thought that was very cool. So, I've been practicing for a long time. However, I didn't get into poetry until I was in Year 10 and studying World War II poets. Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est' made me feel all he did when writing it. I was angry, disgusted, exhausted, and sorrowful. Writing short stories was nice, but if a poet could make me feel like this as a reader, I knew I had to give it a go.
How long did it take you to assemble your debut collection?
I wrote the first poem, "My Father and My Country" a few weeks before my 18th birthday in 2016. I wrote the final poem "Family" five years later, in March 2021. It was never a situation where I would block out time, sit down and start writing. Like a dream or a vision, I just waited for the feeling to take over. I hope that my poetry comes close to making me feel the way I do when I read Audre Lorde or Warsan Shire. The raw emotion that pours out of their work is something that I hope to do for my readers.
You decided to organise the poems into sections called Blood, Bones, Body & Magic. Why?
When I first read through the manuscript, I realised that I had been writing autobiographically. So when it came to formatting the book, I wanted to tell the story of the development of my identity from girl to woman. At the beginning of the collection, in BLOOD, I am just somebody's child without any real power or agency in my life. From section to section, there is a battle of control over my emotions and physical self. In the final section, MAGIC, I am the woman you see today; imperfect, daring, and a little dark. A journey that I am confident many women will relate to.
What do you think people will gain from reading your new book ‘DAUGHTER’?
You will not only feel heard in this book, you will no longer feel alone. This collection encourages you to ask yourself questions you may have never considered relevant to yourself. It will encourage you to question what it means to be family, what it means to love and be loved, what it means to be you.
DAUGHTER by Chelsea Mtada is published in paperback format by Carnelian Heart on, priced £8.99. Available to pre-order now on Amazon.
Visual Poet: Chelsea Mtada
Photographer: Shenell Kennedy
Stylist: Tiyana Henriques
MUA: Sofia Paradis