Poetry | bone & Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

Hey everyone! In my review of salt. by Nayyirah Waheed, I listed a bunch of contemporary poets and my keen interest to enjoy their works in the near future. Yrsa Daley-Ward and Warsan Shire were on that list and I finally read their collections (e-books) a couple of months ago.

Below are two mini reviews of the poetry collections by two popular poets grabbing peoples’ attention in 2016.

bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward 

boneDate Read: April 12th 2016

Published: June 2014

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 136





The Blurb

Bone. Visceral. Close to. Stark.


Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

bone is a brilliant collection of poems. I enjoyed reading the long poems in this collection, as they read like short stories and were packed with lots of suspense and emotion!

Most of the poems in bone have recurring themes of death, sex, family, relationships and Christianity. Yrsa Daley-Ward blends her West Indian (Jamaican) and West African (Nigerian) cultures beautifully in this collection, especially with her references to foods like Jollof rice, stereotypical Black woman mannerisms like eye-rolling and sucking of teeth etc.

Some of my favorite quotes:

Loving someone who hates themselves is a special kind of violence. A fight inside the bones. A war within the blood. (pg. 12)


If you were married to yourself could you stay with yourself? My house would be frightening and wild. (pg. 53)

Even though some of the poems read like short stories, there were healing elements to them that I really appreciated. The poems liberate you… They almost reminded me of – Nayyirah Waheed’s collection salt. bone definitely hit home and made me realize and appreciate how difficult and different peoples’ lives can be. This was an eye-opening read. Please don’t sleep on Ysra Daley-Ward!

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward on Amazon

Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire 

Warsan shire

Date Read: March 16th 2016

Published: December 2011

Publisher: Flipped Eye Publishing

Pages: 38





The Blurb

What elevates Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, what gives the poems their disturbing brilliance, is Warsan Shire’s ability to give simple, beautiful eloquence to the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam; reclaiming the more nuanced truths of earlier times – as in Tayeb Salih’s work – and translating to the realm of lyric the work of the likes of Nawal El Saadawi. As Rumi said, “Love will find its way through all languages on its own”; in Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth – Warsan’s debut pamphlet, we witness the unearthing of a poet who finds her way through all preconceptions to strike the heart directly.


Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

Somali-Brit poet – Warsan Shire’s writing is biting, abrupt and shocking. Most of the poems in Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth have recurring themes of immigrant life, being a refugee, war, death, sex, relationships, womanhood, Islam (almost similar to the themes in Somali-Brit – Diriye Osman’s short stories collection, Fairytales For Lost Children). The first set of poems in this collection were pretty wild and literally had my heart racing. When I finished reading this collection back in March, I craved more because this collection was way too short. I’m definitely looking forward to Shire’s new collection of poems entitled, Extreme Girlhood- which is set to be published this Fall!

Some of my favorite quotes:

Conversations About Home (at the Deportation Center)

…No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. I’ve been carrying the old anthem in my mouth for so long that there’s no space for another song, another tongue or another language.

I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing. I am the sin of memory and the absence of memory. I watch the news and my mouth becomes a sink full of blood. The lines, the forms, the people at the desks, the calling cards, the immigration officer, the looks on the street, the cold settling deep into my bones, the English classes at night, the distance I am from home. But Alhamdulilah of all of this is better than the scent of a woman completely on fire, or a truckload of men who look like my father, pulling out my teeth and nails, or fourteen men between my legs, or a gun, or a promise, or a lie, or his name, or his manhood in my mouth.



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 his baritone, how he whispered

her name – Sofia, 

pure, chaste, untouched. 

We giggled over the static…

I knew Warsan Shire was a talented poet back in 2013 and was aware of all the accolades she’s been awarded over the years. Thanks to my 2016 Reading Goals to incorporate more poetry into my reading challenge, I decided to finally give Shire’s poetry a try and I must say – I’ve been blessed by her work!

After Beyoncé’s (visual) album – Lemonade was released back in April, I realized a lot of people were finally paying more attention to Warsan Shire’s amazing work. Before Beyoncé’s Lemonade album, I didn’t really hear people (more specifically- not fellow Africans) talk much about Warsan Shire. I made a Facebook status about this observation and it gathered quite a few comments:


I respect that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to literary works, but I’ve realized that we (Africans) tend to only celebrate the celebrated. Once a big celebrity from the US or UK praises someone from our continent for their craft, all of a sudden we (Africans) start taking notice of the person and are suddenly proud to have them as African (whichever country they hail from). These are just my observations! Anyways, the Facebook post later inspired the four Nigerian women of Not Your African Cliché Podcast  to talk about Warsan Shire, Chimamanda Adichie, Beyoncé’s album Lemonade and the importance of us supporting artists from our continent. I was invited to join the ladies on the podcast to discuss these topics and so much more! Check out the short description of the episode below:

“Although late to the ‪#‎Lemonade dissection game, the ladies of NYAC discuss a less explored running theme in Beyonce’s last two albums – her collaborations with brilliant African writers; Chimamanda Adichie on self-titled Beyoncé and Warsan Shire on Lemonade. Joined by book blogger extraordinaire and longtime listener/supporter Darkowaa (@AwoDeee), we talk about our favorite tracks off the Lemonade album, the pros and cons of being featured in such high profile work, the limited visibility and reach African works of art have in Africa, and what it takes for African artistry to gain a wide following.”


Please listen to this episode if you have 59 minutes to spare! If you want to just dive right into the topics, you can start listening from 18 minutes 52 seconds – but I highly recommend you listen to the whole episode, it was a great discussion! Feel free to join the discussion with your comments! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Not Your African Cliché Podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud and follow them on Twitter (@NYACpodcast) as well!

All in all, I truly enjoyed and learned a lot from the works of Yrsa Daley-Ward (above on the left) and Warsan Shire (above on the right). Their poetry makes me proud to be a black woman. I’ll surely be purchasing the physical copies of these books to add to my bookshelf soon 🙂

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire on Amazon

19 thoughts on “Poetry | bone & Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

  1. I’ve just read Warsan’s poetry but I’ve always been a fan since her tumblr days. I’m shocked the rest of the world is just catching up. But better late than never. I’m also looking forward to Salt and Bone, when I can afford them.

    I’m recommending you check out Safia Elhilo, she’s been a huge influence on my writing. She’s very similar to Warsan in terms of theme but she has a very unique style that stands out.

    As always, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have NOOO IDEA what this recommendation has done for me. THANK YOU! I just watched some of her spoken word and she’s fierce A F! I’m addicted already! I’m so pumped for her collection – The January Children in 2017!!
      And with regards to the world now knowing Shire’s work – I agree: better late than never lol. I look forward to your reviews/thoughts on bone and salt when you read them.
      Thanks for stopping by! I always appreciate your comments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad you enjoy Safia’s work! Since i discovered her, she has been a huge influence on my poetry, making me rethink conventional style and arrangement in my writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely! Her poetry isn’t conventional at all. I especially LOVE the fierceness in which she SPEAKS her poems – spoken word. Its so so powerful. I’m glad she’s inspiring you and your work! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another blogger I follow just recently (and shyly) reviewed some poetry on her blog. I wonder why more of us don’t review poetry. My favorite poet is Paul Laurence Dunbar, who doesn’t exactly need shout-outs or reviews these days, and I have a hard time finding poets who don’t write so experimentally that I can’t even make heads or tails of what’s on the paper. I wonder if many of us find poetry challenging because contemporary poets seem to love poems that don’t evoke an image or feeling and rely on what I call “word vomit.” Then, people like me read such poems and think, “Well, I guess I’m not smart because this went over my head.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Melanie! I’ll have to look up Paul Dunbar – thanks for the rec. Old school poetry is soo difficult to comprehend – for me. They remind me of the type of poems we had to discuss during literature classes hahaa. Maybe that’s why more people don’t review poems? I prefer the contemporary poems that are popular nowadays – especially ones by black poets. They are more comprehendible and they speak truths, especially if you are familiar with the topics at hand! What was the blog you saw the review on? I’d love to read the review as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s realizinggrace.wordpress.com. I don’t know how much poetry she’s going to do. I’ll bet you read least some Paul Laurence Dunbar in college. Does “We Wear the Mask” skins familiar? It parallels W.E.B. DuBois’s theory of double-consciousness.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Celestine! Yes! Warsan is a powerhouse and I’m glad more people know about her now. I hope you read some of her work in the near future – I’d love to hear your thoughts on a collection of hers 🙂


  3. I hadn’t heard of Warsan Shire until Lemonade was released :/ Ill look for Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth on Kindle. It should be very cheap, considering how short it is.
    I did discover Chimamanda Adichie before “Flawless!” Phew.

    It’s so cool that you did a podcast, Darkowaa! Next time I’m cleaning the house or doing some household task, I will listen to your podcast. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Naz! Yeah, I’m sure it would be cheap. I got mine on Kindle for $4.01 back in January – SUPER affordable lol.
      And yes, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the discussion we had on Shire, Beyonce and the importance of Africans supporting their own on the Not Your African Cliché podcast, when you have time! Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  4. Hey I love your blog!
    I’ve been looking for some good poetry and I’m so excited to check these out. It’s awesome that you were on a podcast! Unfortunately, my knowledge of African literature is embarrassingly limited, but Chimamanda Adichie intrigued me first with her TED talks.
    Great reviews!
    Kate @Read and Dream

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kate! Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words! I hope you find some good reads on this platform, to encourage more reading from Africa. I will check out your blog now that I have a link 🙂


  5. Hey I love your blog!
    I’ve been looking for some good poetry and I’m so excited to check these out. It’s awesome that you were on a podcast! Unfortunately, my knowledge of African literature is embarrassingly limited, but Chimamanda Adichie intrigued me first with her TED talks.
    Great reviews!
    Kate @Read and Dream

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved this post! I agree completely with your suggestions on supporting our African brothers and sisters in expression of their work. Thanks for developing an articulate post to effectively explain this

    Liked by 1 person

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