Warsan Shire, 25 years-old, is a London-based, Kenyan-born Somali writer who strives to move people with her poetry. She’s a woman who decided to speak up about the marginalized environment that she had to call home after immigrating, and now she can call herself the first Young Poet Laureate for London.
Beyoncé even came in touch with Warsan’s poetry, incorporating her words into her recent album and visual projects. As a migrant, Warsan made it possible for herself to question the power of the documentation and boundaries that make the difference between who is an inhabitant and a refugee when both live here and call this place home.
“I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I’m bloated with language I can’t afford to forget,” she said.
What’s weirder—eating a passport or that someone’s human rights are decided by a single piece of paper?
“They ask me how did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket.”
Beyond the subject of migration, she also talks about the sexuality of Muslim women and tries to counter against the dominance of men. Original and inspiring, she uses her words to influence others and inspire empathy. She shows us the significant difference between rule and reality, between lived experience and belief.
Despite common representations of Muslim women, Warsan strives to add nuance to what can often be, for many, a divisive, black and white issue. With two bare lines: “To my daughter I will say: when the men come, set yourself on fire.” She hopes that the women who read her poetry feel and rebel against the black and white portrait.
This article was written by Mariem Chaoui