Warsan Shire : A Collection of Inspiration
Warsan Shire is one of those elusive creatives that we have carried as a secret joy. We discovered Warsan’s blog, “Warsan in Wonderland” in 2011 and a year later her book/pamphlet, “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” came out. It rightly sits on many a bookshelf next to some of the greatest and most favourite authors. A Diasporan Darling and afropolitan of note (Warsan is a Somali based in London who was born in Kenya and who travels extensively) she rarely gives interviews opting instead to share her thoughts through twitter.
There is something about the work of Warsan that speaks to the hidden sorrows and joys within. Maybe it is the blatant honesty of her words and experiences. We’ve often wished we could sit down and interview her but we haven’t been lucky enough to have that opportunity. However, because of Warsan’s work and interactions online there are often times we find that the questions we would ask have already been answered through prose, tweets and previous interviews.
So here is a collection of questions asked by others and of course answered by Warsan.
KR: Your names are Warsan Shire. What do your names mean? Who gave you these names? Back on February 25, 2011, you wrote “the birth name”. In this piece you wrote, “give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue” and ”my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” Can you discuss these two lines?*
WS: Warsan means “good news” and Shire means “to gather in one place”. My parents named me after my father’s mother, my grandmother. Growing up, I absolutely wanted a name that was easier to pronounce, more common, prettier. But then I grew up and understood the power of a name, the beauty that comes in understanding how your name has affected who you are.
My name is indigenous to my country, it is not easy to pronounce, it takes effort to say correctly and I am absolutely in love with the sound of it and its meaning. Also, it’s not the kind of name you baby, slip into sweet talk mid sentence, late night phone conversation, whisper into the receiver kind of name, so, of that I am glad.
DD : Name One African city** you have travelled to that resonated with you?
Afething: What books do you recommend a book lover to read?
WS: What I’m re-reading right now (for the 5th time); “Drown” – junot diaz and “Super Sad True Love Story” – gary shteyngart.***
DD : What is next in store for Warsan Shire?
“Live Unchained, an international arts media and events organization, has featured over 100 women artists from over 16 countries on their growing online magazine at www.liveunchained.com. The organization is now partnering with Warsan Shire to host an awards ceremony titled “Terrifying, Strange and Beautiful”, to honor Live Unchained featured artists. The event is named after a line from Shire’s poem, “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” to acknowledge the layers and complexity of women individually and as part of an international community.” ****
IW : You come from a culture that is very rich in poetry, how has that influenced your work?
WS: I think in Somali, I cuss in Somali, when I’m afraid I reach for somali and this language is very rich, very filling. It’s an unflinching language; the crudest most terrible things sound perfectly normal in Somali. Sometimes I play around with translation. I think of a phrase that is said often in somali and see how it would sound in English ‘indhahayga ayan ka jeclahay’. ‘I love you more than my own eyes’.*****
DD : We, at Diasporan Darlings, and those who count themselves as Warsan Shire groupies are inspired by your work, who inspires you?
DD : What makes you feel at home?
WS: How I take care of myself****** –
speak somali as often as possible
somali tea (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves)
read the qur’an in english out loud to myself because it is a long poem
don’t fall in love with narcissists
don’t apologise for retreating/slowing down/needing time
don’t say sorry when i mean excuse me
- don’t settle for him because he thinks you’re beautiful and you think no one else will find you beautiful, because that’s bullshit.
DD: Where can we get Warsan Shire’s book?
The Diasporan Darlings Recommended Amazon store | Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth : http://bit.ly/XqUnMd
Where to find more Warsan:
* To Be Vulnerable and Fearless: An Interview with Writer Warsan Shire by Kameelah Janan Rasheed |http://bit.ly/UA2RQ1
** Warsan in Wonderland – November 2009 | http://bit.ly/YUkXcz
*** Warsan Shire Tumblr | http://bit.ly/TLPXtV
***** Ask a Poet: Warsan Shire by Indigo Williams | http://bit.ly/YPwi3H
****** Warsan Shire Tumblr | http://bit.ly/WUFYUL