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Warsan Shire: 5 Things About The World’s Most Talked About Writer

May 9, 2016

By Leah Gillis

Her words are gems in Beyonce’s “Lemonade”.

While many are still trying to decipher who “Becky” is, those in the know are squarely focused on writer Warsan Shire. This talented poet, Kenyan-born to Somali parents, grew up in London where she has worked at her craft enough to earn a number of accolades including Young Poet Laureate of London in 2014.

Like the accomplished writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it’s Bey’s intro to the popular culture that has put her on a grander scale. The more people that know about this amazing artist, and are able to be moved and opened by her work, the better off our world will be. At 27, Shire has written movingly of the African migration experience; she has said she’s felt like an outsider.

Her first book, “Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth”, was published in 2011. Since then her works have been translated in many languages, including Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, and she has given readings all over the world, from the U.S. to South Africa and Germany.

So here are a few notables about the woman on everyone’s mind post “Lemonade”:

  1. In an interview a few years ago when asked about her work being termed brave and vulnerable, Shire responded, “I wouldn’t call what I write vulnerable or brave or raw, or any of those adjectives that are prescribed to it – I’m just writing. Those adjectives depend on whoever is writing about my poetry and what they would feel safe about sharing.”
  2. In a 2015 New Yorker profile, her list of accolades runs long,  she received Brunel University’s inaugural African Poetry Prize, in 2013, was chosen as Queensland, Australia’s poet in residence in 2014, and has had her work published in various literary journals and anthologies. In June, the New York Times editorial board quoted from her poem “Home” in a piece urging Western countries to give more aid and safe passage to refugees: “You have to understand / that no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than land.”
  3. Her viral reading of “For Woman Who Are Difficult to Love” is an anthem. 
  4. She’s not just some fancy poet, she lives in the same world we do, as evidenced by her tweet of love for a reality TV star
  5. She’s got a new collection of poetry she’s been working on for years and it’s to be published in 2016. If she’s psyched about it, then we’re psyched.





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