Warsan Shire (born 1 August 1988) is a British writer, poet, editor and teacher, who was born to Somali parents in Kenya, east Africa. 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. Her words "No one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark", from the poem "Conversations about Home (at a deportation center)", have been called "a rallying call for refugees and their advocates".
1 August 1988
|Notable works||Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth (2011)|
|Notable awards||Brunel University African Poetry Prize, Young Poet Laureate for London|
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. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. As of 2015, she primarily resides in Los Angeles.
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. Her poems have been published in various literary publications, including 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 2016, Shire is working on her first full-length poetry collection, having put out a limited-release pamphlet called Her Blue Body in 2015. She serves as the poetry editor at SPOOK magazine and she teaches poetry workshops both globally and online for cathartic and aesthetic purposes.
Shire's poetry featured prominently in Beyoncé's 2016 feature-length film Lemonade. Knowles-Carter's interest in using Shire's work was sparked with Shire's piece "For Women Who Are Difficult To Love".
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." Her main interest is writing about and for people who are generally not heard otherwise, i.e. immigrants and refugees, as well as other marginalized groups of people. 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." As a first-generation immigrant, she has used her poetry to connect with her home country of Somalia, which she has never been to. She uses this position as an immigrant herself to convey the lives of these peoples. 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.
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 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.
- 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)
- Penguin Modern Poets 3: Your Family, Your Body by Malika Booker, Sharon Olds, Warsan Shire (Penguin, 2017). ISBN 0141984023
- Okeowo, Alexis (21 October 2015). "The Writing Life of a Young, Prolific Poet". The New Yorker.
- "Somali poet Warsan Shire on her African poetry award". BBC (podcast). 30 April 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- 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.
- "Bio". WarsanShire.com. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- Carolyn (30 April 2013). "Warsan Shire Wins Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2013". Books Live. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "New Warsan Shire Pamphlet". Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- Leaf, Aaron (23 April 2016). "Ibeyi, Laolu Senbanjo, Warsan Shire Featured in Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'". Okay Africa. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
- Mic. "Here's the Warsan Shire Poem That Caught Beyoncé's Attention for 'Lemonade'". Mic. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
- 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.
- Zakaria, Rafia (27 April 2016). "Warsan Shire: the Somali-British poet quoted by Beyoncé in Lemonade". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
- "Warsan Shire announced as London's first young poet laureate". BBC. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- Garcia, Patricia (25 April 2016). "Warsan Shire Is the Next Beyoncé-Backed Literary Sensation". Vogue.