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Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Shortlisted for the 2022 Felix Dennis Prize

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With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a girl who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own stumbling way towards womanhood. If that doesn't work, there may be a network issue, and you can use our self test page to see what's preventing the page from loading. The collection itself is split into four parts: “What Doesn’t Kill You,” “This is Not a Love Song,” “Are You There, God? In the poem, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ Sire declares: “Mama I made it/out of your home/alive, raised by the voices/in my head. I was a little upset that some of poems where in the previous book, but she made changes to them that feel like final forms that really fit into the maturity of her talent and this book.

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The book can be read in a continuous manner by someone who already knows the Somali words, in a disjointed one by someone who has to reference the glossary as they read, or in a lacking one by the person who chooses to ignore it entirely.

All the torturous vagaries of living-while-woman, living-while-Black, living-while-refugee, written in and through precarity's unassuageable condition. In “Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head,” Shire boldly weaves together a narrative of what it means to be displaced, disconnected from home, and incredibly vulnerable. While it is by no means her job to make a reader comfortable with her work, she misses an opportunity to more fully portray these devastating events to her reader and, therefore, respect the poems’ contents.

There is a deep shared knowing between the speaker and the women in her life that makes possible escape, even if escape is only in the mind, even if escape cannot reprieve the vulnerability of compounded collective traumas. In “Drowning in Dawson’s Creek,” Shire uses the first-person voice of a murdered Somali woman, referring to “my carcass” and “my corpse. I reread it in 2021 and fell utterly in love with Shire, her ability to string sentences together, and find the right words and images for hauntingly sorrowful and desperate situations. While the sectioning of her poems in such a way suggests a clear difference between or progression among them, Shire’s poetic style and the content of her poems are rather static until the book’s end. Speaking of the poem Home, it reappears in this collection newly revised and with a part 2 accompanying the already harrowing words.

If someone from another planet wanted to know what it was like for a woman to survive on earth, they should read this book!I also love how some known poems are brought in, but are given a new life and a new meaning in the context of the whole collection, a whole girlhood. I thought that the increase in sophistication of the poems made some of them too cryptic and it took out the impact the 1st collection had on me. With arresting poetic language and visceral imagery, Shire’s long awaited collection will break your heart over and over agains as she addresses themes or migration, womanhood, familial relations fractured across the globe, and while trauma permeates the pages so does hope and the will to survive. But let's leave on a more positive note: Shire's debut collection is full of blessings – for home, ugly daughters, camels, the Sharmuto, the moon, for guns tossed into rivers.

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head tackles many of the same themes as her previous work, with the same striking verse we’ve come to expect from her. Her poems have been published in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the anthology 'The Salt Book of Younger Poets' (Salt, 2011). As an exploration of patriarchal legacies, it is an education that urges us to question the manumission of then and of now.The poems are powerful and I'm always amazed by her capacity to root her poems in the experiences of the body, but I don't know, I expected more exploration. Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire draws us into the complexities of the transition from girl to woman, immigrant to citizen, in this, her much awaited and first full collection. Perhaps she did so out of respect for Victoria herself, wanting to honor her after her death outside of the lens of her murder, but part of understanding and respecting her story could be found in acknowledging the deep injustice that occurred. When I am cornered this one comes 'An animal standing on hind legs pretending to understand why it must die'.

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