Yaqay – Somali word used to emphasize emotion/urgency in speech.
Such a beautiful word that describes how I felt reading through the chapbook of Warsan Shire, called Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. She was born in Kenia, to Somali parents, and lives in London. I am amazed by her poetry, even more so than Rupi Kaur’s. Shire brings new meaning to the phrase ‘bearing your soul’. Yasmina gave me this book for my birthday a couple of months ago and I had not picked it up yet. Of course, I already had guessed it would be good because it was gifted by my partner in crime. In any case, I start books or poetry without a clear preset notion of what it is going to be like. Sometimes I’ve heard a lot, and that, of course, shapes somewhat an expectation; other times I go in blank like I did with Warsan Shire’s poetry.
I figured out she would be confrontational, to-the-point, and flat-out amazing from the very first page, on which is written:
I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together.
To say I don’t have a good relationship with my father is an understatement; there is no relationship to speak of. I used to think that all Iranian fathers were aggressive and commanding; the ultimate toxic masculinity. Over the years, I found out that even though many fathers may be like this, it’s not necessarily the majority, it’s not necessarily Iranian and it certainly should never be the norm. On the other hand, I thought all mothers are best friends to their daughters and the most patient people in the world. Again, this is not necessarily true for all mothers despite the fact that I still believe that it is the norm (or at least should be). I guess the reason why this poetry chapbook sucked me in right away, is because I have such a dichotomous relationship with my family.
That brings me to this poem, which does not describe my family but certainly feels familiar to the Iranian culture that dictates putting family and marriage goes above everything (even self-preservation). I’m not saying all Iranians feel this way, or that it is strictly Iranian. It’s human actually, especially in countries where women have to fight for their position in life more than in other places or are just so dependent on men because of their society’s faulty system. This also made me think of the two main characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
The morning you were made to leave
she sat on the front steps,
dress tucked between her thighs,
a packet of Marlboro Lights
near her bare feet, painting her nails
until the polish curdled.
Her mother phoned-
What do you mean he hit you?
Your father hit me all the time
but I never left him
He pays the bills
and he comes home at night.
what more do you want?
Later that night she picked the polish off
with her front teeth until the bed you shared
for seven years seemed speckled with glitter
Shire’s poetry is felt by so many women of colour; among which Beyoncé even. Warsan has become a voice for the marginalized and I love hearing it. There are many poems I would like to share with you, and they are so diversely themed as well; it goes from rape to refugees. For now, I will leave you to digest this one first.
She didn’t get to this place without help and that is why I want to shed a light on Flipped Eye Publishing who promote authors and poets with non-mainstream backgrounds. This, of course, sounds like music to our ears; representation.
I want to leave you with amazing words that describe why I love poetry so much:
Poetry is a kind of literary pointilism applied on a jazz-blues-blood-sex-rock-and-rolled canvas with sweat, tears and spittle as primary colours; if you don’t get it you’re not listening…