Thursday, June 29, 2017

Warsan Shire Biography, Quotes, Poems, Books, Home, Contact & Instagram.

Warsan Shire was born in 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents. She immigrated to the United Kingdom at the age of one. Shire has a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. As of 2015, she primarily resides in London

In 2011, Shire released Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, a poetry pamphlet published by flipped eye. Her full collection is to be released in 2016 through flipped eye.

Shire has read her poetry in various artistic venues throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, North America, South Africa and Kenya. Her poems have been republished in various literary publications, such as the Poetry Review, Magma and Wasafiri. Additionally, Shire's verse has been featured in the Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt, 2011) and Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014) collections. They have also been translated into a number of languages, including Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish and Estonian.

As of 2015, Shire is working on her first full poetry collection. She also serves as the poetry editor at SPOOK magazine. In addition, she teaches poetry workshops both globally and online for cathartic and aesthetic purposes.

Shire has received various awards for her art. In April 2013, she 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.

In 2014, Shire was also chosen as Queensland, Australia's poet in residence. She therein liaised with the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts over a six-week period.

It seems fair to say that as a London poet, Warsan Shire represents a new kind of Englishness, which the current generation of 20-somethings can take almost for granted – certainly in the cities. It's an Englishness that admits all races and creeds, joined by shared culture (music, films, poetry) and tolerant of specific differences. It incorporates and accepts a different kind of experience from its grandparents – whether they were in the UK or in some other country. Thus, Shire's poems – with their strong sense of time and place and person, and without the ironic, distanced, traditionally English (and maybe more 'male') pose – speaks to a very real and urgent sensibility whose time is now. 'Grandfather's Hands' encompasses several of these themes:

Your grandmother kissed each knuckle,

circled an island into his palm,
and told him which part they would share,
which part they would leave alone . . .

Your grandfathers hands were slow but urgent.
Your grandmother dreamt them,

a clockwork of fingers finding places to own –
under the tongue, collarbone, bottom lip,
arch of foot.

She uses her work to both celebrate and document the lives of women: in relationships, in various kinds of trauma, in war, in daily life. Her poems are rooted in the life of the body, but it is a body strongly connected to the soul and to other people. Her poems are about how we live with and in ourselves – in the case of so many women, as objects. They're also about love: who, what, why, and above all how we love. Her list poems about relationships are sharp and funny, even while poignant.

In 'Tribe of Wood', a mother addresses her daughter, whom she took for 'circumcision', saying, "women like us can't afford to be weak", and "your mother meant well":

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 hear her moan
but I heard nothing . . .

This ability to be in the mind of the mother committing what we in the West would consider an atrocity demonstrates Shire's ability to encompass what she documents. It is not surprising that her workshops deal with trauma and healing; this poetry is moving, and healing in its presentation of shared humanity and struggle.

Her pamphlet is titled after a Somali proverb. In it, life parades through sisters and mothers and grandmothers, aunts and cousins and brothers and uncles. As in Wordsworth, whose "child is father to the man", in Shire's work each of us creates the mother in the other. She told Indigo Williams:

I'm the eldest in my family, my mother literally learnt how to mother, how to sacrifice, how to grow up, how to be alone, through me. I began writing the book when I was 19 years old. She was also 19 when she gave birth to me . . .

She has also said, in the same interview: "I think in Somali, I cuss in Somali, when I'm afraid I reach for Somali and this language is very rich, very filling. It's an unflinching language; the crudest most terrible things sound perfectly normal in Somali." Her poems contain lines of Somali, but more than that they are infused with Somali poeticism, and this comes through in her clear, musical, image-driven English. But the poems in her pamphlet encompass things that do not "sound perfectly normal" in any language. 'Conversations About Home', for example, is subtitled '(at the Deportation Centre)':

God, do you know how difficult it is, to talk about the day your own city dragged you by the hair, past the old prison, past the school gates, past the burning torsos erected on poles like flags? When I meet others like me I recognise the longing, the missing, the memory of ash on their faces. No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. I've been carrying the old anthem in my mouth for so long that there's no space for another song, another tongue or another language . . . I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I'm bloated with language I can't afford to forget. 

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