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Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Shortlisted for the 2022 Felix Dennis Prize

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Her poems have been published in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the anthology 'The Salt Book of Younger Poets' (Salt, 2011). In this second poem, Shire implements spiritual and elegant language which disconnects the poem from the disturbing events actually being described. The commanding debut from Shire captures the loneliness of migration in crystalline language punctuated by the menace of patriarchal violence. Whilst not all the poems are equal, the whole collection is absolutely compelling in its fearlessness to explore with evocative, direct language and a striking rhythm, the depth of the extra violence suffered by these women in their bodies and identity.

She asks so many questions that I ask myself all the time: especially when I think of loved ones lost, community members lost, the joys and pain of being a girl, a woman, a girl learning from a woman and then a woman of your own.

In the poem, Jones gets blown up with titles such as “patron saint of the unapproachable,” creating a stark step away from the feeling of previous poems — one that creates an underwhelming close to the collection. Poems of migration, womanhood, trauma, and resilience from the celebrated collaborator on Beyoncé's Lemonade and Black Is King, award-winning Somali British poet Warsan Shire. She was awarded the inaugural Brunel International African Poetry Prize and served as the first Young Poet Laureate of London. Dangers are everywhere, such as in a traffic stop where young people are compared to ‘ an animal standing on hind legs / pretending to understand why it must die. Thank you Netgalley and Vintage for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

So, if you wanna give Warsan Shire a shot (which I'd highly recommend), I'd say read Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth first. Nessuno lascerebbe casa se non quando la casa è una voce all’orecchio che dice – vattene, corri, subito. If you're familiar with Shire's previous work, this collection of poems feels familiar, even with the recent additions. Throughout the poems, Shire uses Somali words when referencing traditional familial, cultural, and religious subjects. Albeit her technique seems the same: Shire is still drawing from her own life, as well as pop culture and news headlines.

It feels weird that Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is Warsan Shire's first full-length poetry collection. There is a deep shared knowing between the speaker and the women in her life that makes possible escape, even if escape is only in the mind, even if escape cannot reprieve the vulnerability of compounded collective traumas. Shire identifies the different ways in which the book may be read, commenting directly on the predicted experiences of her readers.

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