Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsen Shire

I really want to get back on track with reading and putting up posts and hopefully I get to do this next week because I get to sit for my last paper on Monday.

I had also mentioned that I’ll be putting up at least one post of poetry texts every two weeks and I’m picking that up now.

‘Teaching my mother how to give birth’ was one of the poetry texts that were selected early this year as an additional reading text to the books we were reading in the Read Club. I particularly found this poetry text to be a captivating one and a thought provoking from how Warsen Shire fearlessly writes it.

Did you guys know that she’s also the brains behind Beyonce’s Lemonade album? I didn’t! It was not until I read this book and wanted to know more about the author that I came across a Vogue article that details her information including her literary work being adapted by Beyonce.

I would love to pre-empt it for you but how will I get you to read it if I do so?


Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

Author: Warsen Shire

Category: Poetry

Warsen Shire has addressed many of the society’s challenges in an unapologetic way in her poetry book, ‘Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth.’

In this book Warsen has explored adversities in areas such as religion, immigration, sexuality and womanhood. The message in each of the poems is striking and calls for one to be keen when reading to get the messages underlying them.

I enjoyed the flow of the poems and the diction with which Warsen has used to write this brilliant, mind blowing poetry text.

With every poem came a new subject to address but what I found overriding in all the poems was sexuality, relationships and womanhood.  I particularly was dumb struck by the Birds poem;

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 the baritone, how he whispered….,

This particular poem clearly depicts the value of purity of a bride to her husband and the extent it takes a woman to prove to her husband the same and keep her marriage.

This poetry text is a must read for everyone regardless of sex and religion. It also offers a glossary that explains the meaning of the Arabic words used in the poems which I thought was a bonus and a great take home. It comprises of 21 poems and a total of 31 pages making it an easy and fast read. But I’d advise one to take time when reading the poems because you can only get the deeper meaning of it when you are keenly reading through.

About the author (Goodreads)

Warsan Shire is a 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 in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the anthology ‘The Salt Book of Younger Poets’ (Salt, 2011). She is the current poetry editor at SPOOK magazine. In 2012 she represented Somalia at the Poetry Parnassus, the festival of the world poets at the Southbank, London. She is a Complete Works II poet. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Warsan is also the unanimous winner of the 2013 Inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize.

Have you read any of Warsen’s Shire poems?




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