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APHRODEN SPOTLIGHT – Warsan Shire Youngest Poet Laureate

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“I write best with free writes, where I refuse to edit what is leaving me, where I write within a specific time frame. I refuse to obsess over it, and if it doesn’t come out easily, then I leave it. I don’t write for an audience. I don’t write under pressure. I’m thankful to take my time.”

Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer, editor and educator who is based in London, who became the winner of the of the 2013 Inaugural Brunel University $3,000 African Poetry Prize. Shire 2 courtesy: wellandoftenpress Born in 1988 to a father, who is a writer, journalist, publisher, activist and poet; Warsan showed him her first poem at the age of 11, and as she recounts “I don’t think I’ve seen him smile at anything like that, since or before.” The poem was about Africa, and it rhymed. Her mother, rather, secretly wrote poems. Her works draw inspiration from both English and African cultures, as her poems have appeared in journals and magazines including Poetry Review, Wasafiri, Magma, Sable LitMag and in the anthology ‘The Salt Book of Younger Poets’ (Salt, 2011). Age 16, at her first event – The Poetry Slam (a competition where poets read or recite their original work); Warsan won, though she never really understood what the competition was about. She has read her works extensively all over Britain and internationally in South Africa (on her first visit to Africa), Italy, Germany, Canada, America and Kenya. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. In 2012 she represented Somalia at the Poetry Parnassus, the festival of the world poets at the Southbank, London. She was named Warsan, which means “good news,” after her paternal grandmother and Shire (pronounced Shireh) means “to gather in one place.” Warsan’s debut book of poetry, “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” (flipped eye) published in 2011, is titled after a Somali proverb. In it, life parades through sisters and mothers and grandmothers, aunts and cousins and brothers and uncles. It’s about women, love, loneliness and war, in chronologic order. Poems that focus on adolescence and young adult hood, married life, divorce, motherhood, growing old and death; with strong references to Somali culture. Teaching_My_Mother_How_to_Give_Birth courtesy: warsanshire.bandcamp With a BA in Creative Writing, she is the current poetry editor at SPOOK magazine, and a Complete Works II poet (a British national development programme for advanced Black and Asian poets funded by Arts Council England.) Her degree has helped her to study her craft, to embrace critique, and to study the English language; making sure that she would not become frightened and decide to become a hair dresser (as she has always wanted to own a beauty salon, … or be an archaeologist.) It has allowed her to study creative writing, which she hopes to continue to a PHD level. warsan vs. melancholy courtesy: Warsanshire bandcamp   Warsan released “Warsan versus Melancholy (The Seven Stages of Being Lonely)” on 14th February, 2012 on Bandcamp. It’s a seven track album, which comprises of seven poems.   Her poetic style is fragmented and broken, with no concern for punctuation or rhyme. Warsan was named the first Young Poet Laureate of London on 3rd October, 2013, before her 25th birthday.   Written By: Olusola Agbaje

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