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


Your daughter is ugly.

She knows loss intimately,

carries whole cities in her belly.


As a child, relatives wouldn’t hold her.

She was splintered wood and sea water.

They said she reminded them of the war.


On her fifteenth birthday you taught her

how to tie her hair like rope 

and smoke it over burning frankincense.


You made her gargle rosewater

and while she coughed, said

macaanto girls like you shouldn’t smell

of lonely or empty.


You are her mother.

Why did you not warn her,

hold her like a rotting boat

and tell her that men will not love her

if she is covered in continents,

if her teeth are small colonies,

if her stomach is an island

if her thighs are borders?


What man wants to lay down 

and watch the world burn 

in his bedroom? 


Your daughter’s face is a small riot,

her hands are a civil war,

a refugee camp behind each ear,

a body littered with ugly things


but God, 

doesn’t she wear

the world well.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Literary Devices:


exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”