Poems of migration, womanhood, trauma, and resilience from the celebrated collaborator on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Black Is King, award-winning Somali British poet Warsan Shire
“The beautifully crafted poems in this collection are fiercely tender gifts.”—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist
“Shire is the real thing—fresh, cutting, indisputably alive.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
LONGLISTED FOR THE GRIFFIN POETRY PRIZE • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly
Mama, I made it / out of your home / alive, raised by / the voices / in my head.
With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a young girl, who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own way toward womanhood. Drawing from her own life, as well as pop culture and news headlines, Shire finds vivid, unique details in the experiences of refugees and immigrants, mothers and daughters, Black women and teenage girls. In Shire’s hands, lives spring into fullness. This is noisy life, full of music and weeping and surahs and sirens and birds. This is fragrant life, full of blood and perfume and shisha smoke and jasmine and incense. This is polychrome life, full of henna and moonlight and lipstick and turmeric and kohl. The long-awaited collection from one of our most exciting contemporary poets, this book is a blessing, an incantatory celebration of resilience and survival. Each reader will come away changed.
The commanding debut from Shire captures the loneliness of migration in crystalline language punctuated by the menace of patriarchal violence. In the collection's strongest piece, "Home," Shire, who is a British writer born to Somali parents in Kenya, writes vividly of impossible choices made by people forced to migrate: "No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well." While this poem makes a strong political statement, it is also deeply personal, evoking the ways in which one's sense of self can be lost: "My beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning/ with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing." Elsewhere, the speaker's religion and perceived foreignness rob her of intimacy and companionship: "Love is not haram but after years of fucking/ women who are unable to pronounce your name,/ you find yourself totally alone." The collection is haunted by those who did not survive migration: "If the moon was Europe, my father was an astronaut who died on his/ way to the moon." Shire's assured voice teems with righteous fury, tempered by rich language to create a memorable and powerful book.