Warsan Shire is a ‘Kenyan-born Somali’ writer, editor and educator based in London. She is also one of our favourite poets because we recognise ourselves in her beautiful words. Warsan has been published in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review, in the anthology ‘The Salt Book of Younger Poets’ (Salt, 2011) and according to her bio, she is the current poetry editor at SPOOK magazine. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. She has won many awards including the 2013 Inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize and is the current Young Poet Laureate of London.
Warsan has read her work extensively all over Britain, including for Africa Writes in 2014, where we first fell in love with her. She is regularly invited to read internationally –including South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, America and Kenya.
“Your daughter’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear,
a body littered with ugly things.
doesn’t she wear the world well?”
Her debut, ‘Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth’ was published in 2011. Immediately, we were drawn to its bare, beautiful bones, words of uncomfortable truth, her simple London language, so relatable, her honest themes of womanhood, love, relationships, sensuality and trauma. Warsan’s beauty stems from her blessed eloquent tongue and how true she makes her poems sound in readings. She lifts her poems into the air and finds the stab wounds in your heart then kisess them until you finally understand why they were made in the first place. She speaks of Islam, of her heritage, she pulls her readers out of the despair or joins them there. She speaks of trauma, reclaims our tainted, hurted hearts for us. As Rumi said, “Love will find its way through all languages on its own,” and Warsan knows love, in all its forms and she delivers it straight to us in the most startling beautiful language, the reader cannot help but be moved by her poems and her soul.
“10: At parties I point to my body and say, ‘ this is where love comes to die, welcome, make yourself at home,’ and some people laugh, they think I’m joking.”
Here is a selection of our favourite Warsan Shire poems. They needs no other introduction. Just listen and feel. (We especially love “The house” 4:08).