Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Auntie

Enlarge poem

your aunt gave birth
to still cities
hiroshima a cyst in her stomach
mogadishu a lump in her breast
everyone in your family
told her to
stop
loving
so hard
you won’t find a man who wants
to kiss an atlas
dont map out stars on your back
like that
where you gonna find
a man who wants to join
your constellations with his tongue
push out falestine from under your
tongue xayati
let damascus drip from your neck
and wash out the havana of
your ribs
your dreams are too large
too big
stifling
they make everyone around you
hold their breath
what man wants a woman
covered in continents
teeth small colonies
stomach an island
what man wants to
watch the world
from his bedroom
face a small riot
hands a civil war
arms freckled
with an immigrants story home
behind your ears
a refugee camp
a body littered entirely
with ugly things

but god,
doesn’t she wear the world well.

Warsan Shire

Featured Poem:

Tribe of Woods

Enlarge poem

I held down my daughter last night
spread her limbs across the forest
laid her out to rest
crushed berries across her mouth and
gave her my knuckles to chew on

I gave my daughter to a man
an offering that made my stomach tight
with want, he spread her limbs across the town
I prayed she felt something,
wriggled underneath him like
the women across the border,
I listened out to here hermoan
but I heard nothing.

my husband tides himself
inside the wetness of another woman
my marital bed is a cleft chin I lag my
tongue across, my body has never felt
heat, my back has never arched.

I gave my daughter to a boat last night
pressed prayers into her palms and
told her to quiet her tears
women like us can’t afford to be weak
and I want different from my grand daughter.

my daughter will curse my name in a foriegn hospital
where her limp pregnant body
will be inspected by a bone lipped doctor
who’ll ask “what happened to this woman”.

tell him your mother took it
a tribe of women the woodsmen
a rusted blade the axe
folklore and religion,
but tell him your mother meant well
and promise me
that you’ll teach my granddaughter
that there is never any shame in want.

WarsanShire

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (13)
  • Pride (7)
  • Optimism (8)
  • Anger (24)
  • Delight (10)
  • Inspiration (10)
  • Reflection (29)
  • Captivation (9)
  • Peace (6)
  • Amusement (4)
  • Sorrow (9)
  • Vigour (2)
  • Hope (3)
  • Sadness (15)
  • Fear (9)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

  1. Tribe of Woods is a brilliant insight into the complexities of FGM. I love the way that a woman’s voice does not simply chastise the horror of the act itself but speaks about the ambiguities faced by women, charged by their culture to conform to tradition. The seeking of change for her granddaughter provides the hope in opposition to the resignatory tone of the main body of the poem. Wonderful

    ned
  2. A superb poet. Her poem ‘Home’ about refugees captures this time in history perfectly, painfully. PS Can the introduction to the audio be amended so that her name is correctly pronounced, ie ‘Shi-reh’?

    Gill Wing

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Shire was born in 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents. She later emigrated to London.

Shire thereafter began writing poetry as a way to connect with her Somali heritage and her roots in Somalia. Her verse first gained notice after her poem “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” went viral. In 2011, she also released Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, a poetry pamphlet published by flipped eye.

Shire has read her poetry in various venues throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, North America, South Africa and Kenya. Her poems focus on themes of travel and loss, and have been featured in the Poetry Review, Magma, Wasafiri and the Salt Book of Younger Poets. They have also been translated into a number of languages, such as Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

In April 2013, Shire was presented with Brunel University’s inaugural African Poetry Prize, an award earmarked for poets who have yet to publish a full-length poetry collection. She was chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries.

In October 2013, Shire was also selected from a shortlist of six young bards as the first Young Poet Laureate for London. The honour is part of the London Legacy Development Corporation’s Spoke programme, which focuses on promoting arts and culture in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the surrounding area.

Warsan Shire

WarsanShire
WarsanShire

Biography

Shire was born in 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents. She later emigrated to London.

Shire thereafter began writing poetry as a way to connect with her Somali heritage and her roots in Somalia. Her verse first gained notice after her poem “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” went viral. In 2011, she also released Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, a poetry pamphlet published by flipped eye.

Shire has read her poetry in various venues throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, North America, South Africa and Kenya. Her poems focus on themes of travel and loss, and have been featured in the Poetry Review, Magma, Wasafiri and the Salt Book of Younger Poets. They have also been translated into a number of languages, such as Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

In April 2013, Shire was presented with Brunel University’s inaugural African Poetry Prize, an award earmarked for poets who have yet to publish a full-length poetry collection. She was chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries.

In October 2013, Shire was also selected from a shortlist of six young bards as the first Young Poet Laureate for London. The honour is part of the London Legacy Development Corporation’s Spoke programme, which focuses on promoting arts and culture in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the surrounding area.

Auntie

Enlarge poem

your aunt gave birth
to still cities
hiroshima a cyst in her stomach
mogadishu a lump in her breast
everyone in your family
told her to
stop
loving
so hard
you won’t find a man who wants
to kiss an atlas
dont map out stars on your back
like that
where you gonna find
a man who wants to join
your constellations with his tongue
push out falestine from under your
tongue xayati
let damascus drip from your neck
and wash out the havana of
your ribs
your dreams are too large
too big
stifling
they make everyone around you
hold their breath
what man wants a woman
covered in continents
teeth small colonies
stomach an island
what man wants to
watch the world
from his bedroom
face a small riot
hands a civil war
arms freckled
with an immigrants story home
behind your ears
a refugee camp
a body littered entirely
with ugly things

but god,
doesn’t she wear the world well.

Featured Poem:

Tribe of Woods

Enlarge poem

I held down my daughter last night
spread her limbs across the forest
laid her out to rest
crushed berries across her mouth and
gave her my knuckles to chew on

I gave my daughter to a man
an offering that made my stomach tight
with want, he spread her limbs across the town
I prayed she felt something,
wriggled underneath him like
the women across the border,
I listened out to here hermoan
but I heard nothing.

my husband tides himself
inside the wetness of another woman
my marital bed is a cleft chin I lag my
tongue across, my body has never felt
heat, my back has never arched.

I gave my daughter to a boat last night
pressed prayers into her palms and
told her to quiet her tears
women like us can’t afford to be weak
and I want different from my grand daughter.

my daughter will curse my name in a foriegn hospital
where her limp pregnant body
will be inspected by a bone lipped doctor
who’ll ask “what happened to this woman”.

tell him your mother took it
a tribe of women the woodsmen
a rusted blade the axe
folklore and religion,
but tell him your mother meant well
and promise me
that you’ll teach my granddaughter
that there is never any shame in want.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (13)
  • Pride (7)
  • Optimism (8)
  • Anger (24)
  • Delight (10)
  • Inspiration (10)
  • Reflection (29)
  • Captivation (9)
  • Peace (6)
  • Amusement (4)
  • Sorrow (9)
  • Vigour (2)
  • Hope (3)
  • Sadness (15)
  • Fear (9)
  • Jubilation (0)

Auntie

Enlarge poem

your aunt gave birth
to still cities
hiroshima a cyst in her stomach
mogadishu a lump in her breast
everyone in your family
told her to
stop
loving
so hard
you won’t find a man who wants
to kiss an atlas
dont map out stars on your back
like that
where you gonna find
a man who wants to join
your constellations with his tongue
push out falestine from under your
tongue xayati
let damascus drip from your neck
and wash out the havana of
your ribs
your dreams are too large
too big
stifling
they make everyone around you
hold their breath
what man wants a woman
covered in continents
teeth small colonies
stomach an island
what man wants to
watch the world
from his bedroom
face a small riot
hands a civil war
arms freckled
with an immigrants story home
behind your ears
a refugee camp
a body littered entirely
with ugly things

but god,
doesn’t she wear the world well.

Comments

  1. Tribe of Woods is a brilliant insight into the complexities of FGM. I love the way that a woman’s voice does not simply chastise the horror of the act itself but speaks about the ambiguities faced by women, charged by their culture to conform to tradition. The seeking of change for her granddaughter provides the hope in opposition to the resignatory tone of the main body of the poem. Wonderful

    ned
  2. A superb poet. Her poem ‘Home’ about refugees captures this time in history perfectly, painfully. PS Can the introduction to the audio be amended so that her name is correctly pronounced, ie ‘Shi-reh’?

    Gill Wing

Your email address will not be published.