Warsan Shire FRSL (born 1 August 1988) is a British writer, poet, editor and teacher, who was born to Somali parents in Kenya.[1] In 2013, she was awarded the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize, chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries.[2] Her words "No one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark", from the poem "Conversations about Home (at a deportation centre)", have been called "a rallying call for refugees and their advocates".[3]

Warsan Shire
Born (1988-08-01) 1 August 1988 (age 35)
OccupationPoet, writer
Notable worksTeaching My Mother How To Give Birth (2011)
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems (2022)
Notable awardsBrunel University African Poetry Prize; Young Poet Laureate for London

Life and career edit

Born on 1 August 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents, Shire migrated with her family to the United Kingdom at the age of one. She has four siblings.[4] She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing. As of 2015, she primarily resides in Los Angeles, California.

In 2011, she released Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, a poetry pamphlet published by flipped eye. Her full collection was released in 2016, also through flipped eye.[4]

Shire has read her poetry in various artistic venues throughout the world, including in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, North America, South Africa and Kenya.[5] Her poems have been published in various literary publications, including Poetry Review, Magma and Wasafiri.[5] Additionally, Shire's verse has been featured in the collections Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt, 2011), Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014), and New Daughters of Africa (edited by Margaret Busby, 2019).[6] Her poetry has also been translated into a number of languages, including Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish and Estonian.[4]

As of 2016, Shire is working on her first full-length poetry collection, having put out a limited-release pamphlet called Her Blue Body in 2015.[7] She serves as the poetry editor at SPOOK magazine and she teaches poetry workshops both globally and online for cathartic and aesthetic purposes.[4]

Shire's poetry featured prominently in Beyoncé's 2016 feature-length film Lemonade.[8] Knowles-Carter's interest in using Shire's work was sparked with Shire's piece "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love".[9][10] Beyoncé again featured Shire's poetry in her 2020 musical film Black Is King[11]

Shire published Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems on 1 March 2022. It was reviewed in The New Yorker.[12]

Shire was interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday by Sarah McCammon on 27 February 2022 to discuss her new book.[13]

Influences edit

Shire uses not only her own personal experiences but also the experiences of people to whom she is close. She is quoted as saying: "I either know, or I am, every person I have written about, for or as. But I do imagine them in their most intimate settings."[1] Her main interest is writing about and for people who are generally not heard otherwise, e.g. immigrants and refugees as well as other marginalized groups of people.[1][14] Shire is also quoted as saying: "I also navigate a lot through memory, my memories and other people's memories, trying to essentially just make sense of stuff."[2] As a first-generation immigrant, she has used her poetry to connect with her home country of Somalia, which she has never been to[2] but which she describes as "a nation of poets".[15] She uses her position as an immigrant herself to convey the lives of these peoples.[1] Shire utilizes the influences of her close relatives, and family members and their experiences to depict in her poetry the struggles that they have all faced.[2]

Awards and honours edit

Shire has received various awards for her art. In April 2013, she was presented with Brunel University's inaugural African Poetry Prize,[2] an award earmarked for poets who have yet to publish a full-length poetry collection.[5] She was chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries.[2]

In October 2013, Shire was selected from a shortlist of six 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.[16]

In 2014, Shire was also chosen as poet-in-residence of Queensland, Australia, liaising with the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts over a six-week period.[4]

In June 2018 Shire was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in its "40 Under 40" initiative.[17]

Her first full-length collection of poetry, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head, was shortlisted for the 2022 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection and the 2023 Dylan Thomas Prize, and appeared on the longlist for the 2023 Griffin Poetry Prize.[18][19] [20][21]

Personal life edit

She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, Andres Reyes-Manzo, and their two young children.[12]

Publications edit

  • Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth (flipped eye, 2011), ISBN 1905233299
  • Her Blue Body (flap pamphlet series, flipped eye, 2015), ISBN 978-1905233489
  • Poems including "The Unbearable Weight of Staying", "Dear Moon", "How to Wear Your Mother's Lipstick", "Nail Technician as Palm Reader", and "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love" featured on Lemonade: A Visual Album by Beyoncé (2016)[22]
  • Penguin Modern Poets 3: Your Family, Your Body by Malika Booker, Sharon Olds, Warsan Shire (Penguin, 2017). ISBN 0141984023
  • Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems (Random House, 2022), ISBN 978-0593134351

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d Okeowo, Alexis (21 October 2015). "The Writing Life of a Young, Prolific Poet". The New Yorker.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Somali poet Warsan Shire on her African poetry award". BBC (podcast). 30 April 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  3. ^ Kuo, Lily (30 January 2017). "'HOME' This poem is now the rallying call for refugees: 'No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark'". Quartz Africa. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Bio". WarsanShire.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Carolyn (30 April 2013). "Warsan Shire Wins Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2013". Books Live. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  6. ^ Obi-Young, Otosirieze (10 January 2018), "Margaret Busby-Edited Anthology to Feature 200 Female Writers Including Adichie, Aminatta Forna, Bernardine Evaristo, Imbolo Mbue, Warsan Shire, Zadie Smith", Brittle Paper.
  7. ^ "New Warsan Shire Pamphlet From Spread The Word". African Poetry Book Fund. 12 November 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  8. ^ Leaf, Aaron (23 April 2016). "Ibeyi, Laolu Senbanjo, Warsan Shire Featured in Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'". Okay Africa. Archived from the original on 25 April 2016. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  9. ^ King, Jamilah (25 April 2016). "Here's the Warsan Shire Poem That Caught Beyoncé's Attention for 'Lemonade'". Mic. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  10. ^ Hess, Amanda (27 April 2016). "Warsan Shire, the Woman Who Gave Poetry to Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  11. ^ Thompson, Rachel (31 July 2020). "Beyoncé drops breathtaking 'Black Is King' visual album with cameos from all the family". Mashable. Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  12. ^ a b Okeowo, Alexis (7 February 2022). "Warsan Shire's Portraits of Somalis in Exile". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  13. ^ McCammon, Sarah (27 February 2022). "Beyoncé collaborator Warsan Shire releases her first full collection of poetry". NPR.org. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  14. ^ Zakaria, Rafia (27 April 2016). "Warsan Shire: the Somali-British poet quoted by Beyoncé in Lemonade". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  15. ^ "Warsan Shire on a Nation of Poets". BBC Radio 4. 9 January 2023.
  16. ^ "Warsan Shire announced as London's first young poet laureate". BBC. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  17. ^ Flood, Alison (28 June 2018). "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Warsan Shire". Griffin Poetry Prize. Retrieved 15 September 2023.
  19. ^ Shaffi, Sarah (23 March 2023). "Dylan Thomas prize shortlist includes four debuts". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 September 2023.
  20. ^ "Warsan Shire In conversation with Forward Arts Foundation". Forward Arts Foundation. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  21. ^ Brown, Lauren (16 June 2022). "Mort, El-Kurd and Pollard make Forward Prizes for Poetry shortlists". The Bookseller. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  22. ^ Garcia, Patricia (25 April 2016). "Warsan Shire Is the Next Beyoncé-Backed Literary Sensation". Vogue. Archived from the original on 30 April 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2017.

External links edit