Born in Kenya, Somali-origin writer Warsan Shire pens poems that are an uncompromising depiction of an African outlook. This London-based poet's work emphasizes the continent's culture, challenges, armed conflict, societal beliefs, and other negative issues impacting its people. The majority of Shire's works are a reflection of self-experience, steady testimonies and prayer. She attempts to portray the society, from kids', females', lovers' and migrants' standpoints. Thus, a majority of her poems reflect postmodernism. She aims at presenting a systematic personal outlook using her superior knowledge on societal aspects and values. In this paper, the following three poems composed by Shire -- 'Home', 'Ugly', and 'The letter my mum would have written had she known English' -- will be analyzed for postmodernism and for Shire's representation of Africans.
This is an unusual piece of poetry wherein Shire reveals her fears being a woman in the society she lives in. However, the opposite of fear is what she attaches importance to. The poet begins thus: "Your daughter is ugly . . . as a child, relatives wouldn't hold her. She was a splintered wood and sea water and she reminded them of the war" (Ugly 1). As the author appreciates beauty, being its opposite is bad and garners society's disapproval. Society tends to like appealing and beautiful things. Shire compares ugliness to war, calling it a reminder of war. It is, perhaps, to do with war's impacts, consequences, and the associated destruction and loss. The writer appreciates beauty and peace, in contrast to ugliness and conflict.
Africa's culture prizes multiplication and growth, as Shire writes "carries whole cities inside her belly" (Ugly 1), a metaphor indicating African females' potentiality. The poet believes the African woman shows promise -- the promise of changing and improving the society in a more modernized way. But she has suffered humiliation and subjugation, as evidenced by the words "Your daughter is ugly, she knows loss intimately" (Ugly 1). Shire employs scorn in this instance to suggest that the mother is being blamed for giving birth to an ugly girl.
Moving forward, Shire aims at countering stereotypes and demonstrating identity representation for Africans. Mothers are children's mainstays, charged with educating their little ones regarding key aspects of life. "You taught her how to tie her hair like a rope . . . you made her gargle rosewater . . . you are her mother. Why didn't you warn her" (Ugly 4)? Here, Shire praises mothers as individuals who educate children on good morals.
The stereotypes women in Africa face are evidenced by "she is covered in continents. Her teeth are a small colonies, her stomach is an island her thighs are borders . . . what man wants to lay down and watch the world burn in his bedroom?" (Ugly 4) In Africa, men have weird criteria for women and do not appreciate them if they fail to meet those criteria: "Tell her that men will not love her" (Ugly 4). Another demonstration of female stereotyping is "your daughter's face is a small riot, her hands are a civil war, a refugee camp behind each ear, a body littered with ugly things" (Ugly 4).
This is a noteworthy work that reflects Africans' struggles with war and has been cited often with regard to emigrants' suffering, dishonor, protest, and other war-related aspects. In Home, Shire has illustrated the pitiable plight of war-torn places and their peoples, opening with "No…
Sources Used in Document:
Wars an Shire, 'The letter my mother would have written had she known English." Online. 2012