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Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  15,356 ratings  ·  1,305 reviews
What elevates 'teaching my mother how to give birth', what gives the poems their disturbing brilliance, is Warsan Shire's ability to give simple, beautiful eloquence to the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam; reclaiming the more nuanced truths of earlier times - as in Tayeb Salih's work - and translating to the realm of lyric the work of ...more
Paperback, 37 pages
Published December 29th 2011 by Flipped Eye
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Sean Barrs
Through Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth the empowerment of women becomes like a burning tempest kindled up by the rawness of Warsan Shire’s words. The poems are also about reality, the horrors that some people have to face in a word driven by war. They carry with them such human depth, none more so than the poem In Love and In War.

“To my daughter I will say
‘when the men come, set yourself on fire.’”

The poem is only two lines, but it establishes the tone for the rest of the work; it acts li
Bri Hudson
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I should mark this as read. However, I carry the book in my purse and have read it everyday since it arrived in the mail. I loved it the moment I opened the first page. The intro hit me like a ton of bricks "I have my mother's mouth and my father's eyes..." that line hit me like a ton of bricks. I love poetry that is plain. That is not left up to interpretation. There is no confusion about what she was trying to say. She masters "show don't tell". I love how her titles are really more like the f ...more
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
4.5 stars. Review posted September 2, 2014. **RE-READ JULY 21, 2016**

If this is not going to touch you what will?

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38 pages that will hit you hard and put life into perspective.

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Conversations About Home
(at the Deportation Centre)

Well, I think home spat me out, the blackouts and curfews like tongue against loose tooth. God, do you know how difficult it is, to talk about the day your own city dragged you by the hair, past the old prison, past the school gates, past the burning torsos erected on p
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read and immediately reread⁠—sparse words for raw and terrible things.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Warsan Shire writes beautifully - it's very easy to lean into overloading readers with metaphors and flowery language as a crutch, which often suggests amateurish writing; but Warsan expertly handles it with sophistication and purpose. She makes the narratives feel intimate and explores themes like feminism, war, and immigration. I’m not rating this 5 stars because I didn’t personally feel impacted by it, but I still think her writing is solid, mature, and much stronger than other poets I’ve rea ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Today is a good day. Today is a wonderful day - any day that starts out like this is. I found a house full of words. Bold, fearless, silky, abrasive, wounding words. Warsan Shire is a house full of words. Words that don't cuddle you, words that envelope you. There's a deep sense of melancholy to her words and quite a lot of her poems contain explicit content - which I have absolutely no qualms about. If you don't do bold and abrasive, then this probably isn't for you. But personally, I love the ...more
Clumsy Storyteller
Short meaningful poems

"Inna lillahi Wa inna ilaihi Rajioon.

My mother says no one can fight it, the body returning to God"

"Sofia used pigeon blood on her wedding night.
Next day, over the phone, she told me
how her husband smiled when he saw the sheets,

that he gathered them under his nose,
closed his eyes and dragged his tongue over the stain.
She mimicked his baritone, how he whispered

her name– Sofia,
pure, chaste, untouched."
Whitney Atkinson
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
3.5 stars

This book was very informative, eye-opening, and interesting. I think I came out of it very shocked because I read books all about Kenya this past semester for school, so catching references about the country and Islam was very neat for me. A lot of these poems are super dark, so trigger warning for domestic violence and rape/sexual assault, but the haunting quality to them made them so addicting and tragic. I ended up reading some of these out loud to my (conservative) mom as she was c
Strangely beautiful!

OMG! This book went straight to my heart and and touched my soul because it was disturbing, painfully honest, strangely compelling and beautiful! Warsan Shire is my home girl and I can't wait to read all of her works.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gamechangers, 2013
To my daughter I will say,
'when the men come, set yourself on fire'.
Liz Janet
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
“To my daughter I will say,
‘when the men come, set yourself on fire’.

– In Love and In War

I first came across Warsan Shire’s poetry through a review of her poem “The Kitchen” by African Soulja, which had the entire poem in it. The rawness between the present events, and the description food, created such a visual image that I knew I was going to love her writing. Her poetry has many similarities to most of my favourite slam poets, and it was only a manner of time before I got my hands on her
Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~)
I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together."

And just like that, I was a goner.
Dave Schaafsma
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Yesterday was the Women’s March on DC, NYC, LA, the world, so I read this book of poems by London-based Somali poet Shires, visceral poetry, angry, passionate in every way. This 34 page book will be part of her first full length collection of poetry. Thanks to Liz Janet, whose great review led me to this book.

Here’s some lines and sections of poems from the book I liked a lot:

“I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome a
Emer (A Little Haze)
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Emer (A Little Haze) by: Anne
I have been savouring this short book of poems for weeks. It's hard to know how to review this collection as it feels so personal. My experience with the words so intimate. I often picked up this book and read aloud the contents within. And the stillness I found in the quiet of my own voice reading these beautiful words... I simply can't explain it.

Truth. Beauty. Love.

three and a half stars

“Your daughter is ugly.
She knows loss intimately,
carries whole cities in her belly.
Your daughter’
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ummm ... I spontaneously decided to reread this poetry collection after almost four years and I'm honestly soooo shook right now? Like, in my memory it was just an okay-collection but it really blew my fucking socks off this time around. It's definitely messed up and super depressing (TW for rape, bulimia, racism and war crimes) but the poems were soooo good?? Her language was so figurative and I almost loved every single poem. Like, what??

I read through my initial review from 2017 and old-me r
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ian by: Baba ♥♥♥ Tyler, Marcus, Archer, Dean, Adrian, Dan & Hunter
Shelves: g-poetry
He was sitting in the hospital parking lot
in a borrowed car, counting the windows
of the building, guessing which one
was glowing with his mistake.

Poetry is difficult, almost impossible to review. It's actually tempting to not review this collection of poems, to not rate it.

But I will...

The poetry I read is a bit of a mixed bag. I have collections by Rabbie Burns, Edgar Allen Poe, Banjo Patterson and e.e.cummings. I like what I like but there is poetry which I know is great that really doesn't
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
When We Last Saw Your Father
He was sitting in the hospital parking lot
in a borrowed car, counting the windows
of the building, guessing which one
was glowing with his mistake.

Don’t you love it when literature graps you tight and doesn’t let go? Warsan Shire’s bold, beautiful poetry does exactly that. When you are reading this book it feels like the woman is sitting close to you, holding your hand and telling you, with burning eyes and a sharp tongue, her own life story. With her striking words Sh
Tori (InToriLex)
Find this and other Reviews at InToriLex

"I have my mother's mouth and my fathers eyes, on my face they are still together." 

I don't get a chance to read a lot of poetry, but when I do it pulls at my soul. I stared at the cover of this slim but powerful book for a while. The imaginative and powerful image of a gun going through a woman is enough to think on how my own voice is muzzled by myself but also the environment I'm in. I love this poet and she conveys deep and powerful emo
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2019, poetry
Warsan Shire is one of the poets I was hoping to get to during National Poetry Month and I received two collections through interlibrary loan.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth was published first (2011) in the UK, by the English lottery funded mouthmark series. Our Men Do Not Belong To Us is actually a chapbook from the Seven New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook boxed set edited by Chris Abani and Kwami Dawes (2014) Most of the poems in the chapbook are in this collection, so just try for
Eunice Moral
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
The poem Ugly is beautiful, definitely a favorite.
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a slim debut chapbook of vivid, visceral, violent poems by a U.K.-based writer of Somali heritage who has already achieved widespread fame despite her young age (you may have seen her work featured in Beyonce's Lemonade). I was first drawn to her work some months ago after reading her poem "the birth name", which advises readers to "give your daughters difficult names.... my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right." (that poem is not included in this chapbook ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Last night in bed I swear I thought my body was on fire.

What a lovely and eloquent little book. The tone, subject matter, and emotion in this one really stands out among the numerous modern poetry collections.
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2016

I only opened the book to take a peek
And then I only moved to sit more comfortably as I read

Poetry of all the senses and the emotions and the feelings
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My god, Warsan Shire writes beautiful poetry! And I mean it when I say that. This is beautiful poetry. Brutally beautiful.

I'm just going to quote some of the lines here that I found to be the most beautiful.

"Your grandfather's hands were brown.
Your grandmother kissed each knuckle,

circled an island into his palm
and told him which parts they would share,
which parts they would leave alone.

She wet a finger to draw where the ocean would be
on his wrist, kissed him there,
named the ocean after herself.
Never Without a Book
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Short, but oh so powerful!
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“I glow the way unwanted things do, a neon sign that reads; come, I still taste like someone else’s mouth.”

I stumbled upon Warsan Shire's work after attending a spoken word event when I was in New York last summer. Not something that is so popular here in England, i was intrigued.

This book is amazing. Warsan Shires work is amazing, and some of her poems in this book made me tear up and wonder at how we all have ths same words, but only a special group of people can craft and place them so beau
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Because it’s World Refugee Day, and I’ve been reading Shire’s poem, Home, over and over, I decided it was time to read this one too.

Beautiful and horrifying. Glad I picked up this short volume.
Moi  Baltazar
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together."
*mixed emotions*
Sleepless Dreamer
I've procrastinated the entire day so really, finishing up this book is just a natural progression of things. Review to come! ...more
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Warsan Shire is a 24 year old Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London. Born in 1988, Warsan has read her work extensively all over Britain and internationally - including recent readings in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, North America and Kenya- and her début book, 'TEACHING MY MOTHER HOW TO GIVE BIRTH' (flipped eye), was published in 2011. Her poems have been published ...more

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