Book Review: “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” by Warsan Shire

Title: Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

Author: Warsan Shire

Genre: Contemporary Poetry

Rating: 5/5


Warsan Shire is one of those contemporary poets whose work I’m familiar with, but have never actually bought any of her work. I feel like it might be the same for a lot of people, because I can’t imagine anyone who has spent any length of time on the internet hasn’t ever read at least a few lines of “For Women Who Are Difficult To Love”. It seems like parts of it are quoted on some facebook status every other week, like it pops up on twitter every so often, and is featured on basically every pinterest board I follow; sometimes credited, though often not.

Within the poetry community, of course, she is known. Perhaps not to the extent of other contemporary masters such as Nikita Gill or Rupi Kaur, but enough that I’ve been forcibly told I should hurry up and read her work, already.

Read it I did, and now I can see why so many people admire her so much. It’s true that I knew she’d written at least one poem I loved and thought was genius, but really, that doesn’t mean a great deal. I’ve written at least one good poem that people loved, but that doesn’t mean all of my work is good. Warsan Shire, however, is incredibly skilled with the written word, and to my (admittedly limited) knowledge, has yet to share a bad composition.

All of her work is punchy, crisp, and while not always “relatable”, written in such a manner that you can feel the tragedy and heartbreak as though it were. That’s a hard thing to do, especially in the medium of a poem. The kind of poetry I enjoy most to read is clever and concise –oh, I like Burns and Byron well enough, but it’s flowery and a little frivolous, and it’s lovely, really, but just not my cup of soup.

Warsen Shire’s “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” is very much women’s poetry, and while I’m sure there are plenty of men who do and would enjoy it, I feel like the subject matter might not strike them in quite the same way. There were several points where I felt my eyes swimming a little, particularly “Your Mother’s First Kiss” and “The Kitchen”, but the one that hit me hardest was the very last one, “In Love and In War”.

It’s a very short collection, but that by no means diminishes its contents. In actual fact, I’d almost say its brevity lends itself to the overall tone and style of the book.

As I said previously: Clever and concise. Full marks on all counts. Can’t wait to read more from her!


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