The Poetry Of Warsan Shire


I finally gave into the hype and watched the visual album for Beyoncé’s Lemonade. I was blown away, to say the least. The album really takes you on an emotional journey with Beyoncé as she deals with her cheating husband. What really stood out to me was the poetry and the visuals. It helped me understand the story and understand the pain, anger, and happiness. At the end of the video, I realized that the beautiful mind behind the film adaptation and the poetry was Warsan Shire.

Warsan Shire is a poet and teacher.  She was born in 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents but they moved to Britain where she grew up. At the Age of 28, she has achieved so much. Apart from working with Beyoncé, she was the first young Poet Laureate for London, she was chosen as Queensland, Australia’s resident poet among other awards.

I will be the first to admit that to this day I have always said I hate poetry and I truly did. This is because when we were in high school we learnt poetry and every time the task was to interpret the poem my interpretation was always wrong. From then on poetry just left a bad taste in my mouth. But now Warsan Shire has changed my mind.

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Her poetry is fearless. She has tackled difficult topics such as faith, women’s sexuality, living as an immigrant and a refugee. If you search her name on YouTube you will find many recitals of her poems. Maybe her most famous poem, ‘For women who are difficult to love’, was recited by Beyoncé at the beginning of Lemonade. She speaks of a woman trying to change herself for a man who believes that she is too much. This story has resonated with women all over the world because we have all done it before, tried to change so that we can be loved but it did not change anything.

Her poetry is very raw and honest because she writes from her life or from people she knows. She is also trying to give a voice to the voiceless. A cause dear to her heart is refugees and she works closely with different refugee camps. She very beautifully puts it in her poem Conversations about Home (At the deportation Centre)‘, No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of the shark. She reminds all of us that refugees did not choose to leave their country, they had to. She also articulates the difficulties of leaving your home to live in a country where people hate you and think you are a burden.

Her poems have been published in three different collections; ‘Teaching my mother how to give birth’, ‘Her Blue Body’, ‘Penguin Modern Poets 3: Your family, Your body’ and ‘The Pity’.  You can also enjoy her poems on YouTube where there are videos of her reciting her poems or you can just listen to the Lemonade album. I have not yet found any of her books in Kenya but if you know where I can find one please comment below.

Featured image via Wordnsoundlivelit.

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