Warsan Shire


Poet and activist Warsan Shire grew up in London. She is the author of the collections Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (flipped eye, 2011), Her Blue Body (flipped eye, 2015), Our Men Do Not Belong to Us (Slapering Hol Press and Poetry Foundation, 2015), and Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head (Random House, forthcoming 2021). Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines, including Poetry Review, Wasafiri, and Sable LitMag; in the anthologies Salt Book of Younger Poets (2011), Long Journeys: African Migrants on the Road (2013), and Poems That Make Grown Women Cry (2016); as well as in Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade (2016) and film Black Is King (2020). Shire has read her work in South Africa, Italy, Germany, and the United States. In 2013, she won Brunel University’s first African Poetry Prize. In 2014, she was named the first Young Poet Laureate for London and chosen as poet-in-residence for Queensland, Australia. In 2017 she was included in the Penguin Modern Poets series. In 2019 she wrote the short film Brave Girl Rising, narrated by Tess Thompson and David Oyelowo, and became the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Royal Society of Literature. Source

Extreme Girlhood

A loop, a girl born

to each family,

prelude to suffering.


Bless the baby girl,

caul of dissatisfaction,

patron saint of not

good enough


Are you there, God?

It’s me, Warsan.

Maladaptive daydreaming,

obsessive, dissociative.


Born to a lullaby

lamenting melanin,

newborn ears checked

for the first signs of color.


At first I was afraid, I was petrified.


The child reads surahs each night

to veil her from il

protecting body and home

from intruders


She wakes with a fright,

someone cutting the rope,


something creeping

deep inside her


Are you there, God?

It’s me, the ugly one.


Bless the Type 4 child, 

scalp massaged with the milk

of cruelty, cranium cursed,

crushed between adult knees,

drenched in pink lotion.


Everything you did to me,

I remember.


Mama, I made it

out of your home

alive, raised by 

the voices

in my head






Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Childhood & Coming of Age


Mental Health

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a figure of speech wherein a writer raises a question and then immediately answers it