[Poetic Attack] Somalian poet Warsan Shire, “women who are ‘difficult’ to love”

Bridget Boakye January 23, 2018

This week’s poetry feature is “women who are ‘difficult’ to love” from writer, poet, editor and teacher, Warsan Shire, who was born to Somali parents in Kenya, East Africa. At the age of 1, she moved to Britain with her parents.

Shire came to wide prominence in early 2016 after singer/actress Beyonce Knowles featured her poetry in her work in her album, Lemonade.

Shire’s work is intimate and cutting. She told the New Yorker that, “I either know, or I am every person I have written about, for or as. But I do imagine them in their most intimate settings.”

As a first-generation immigrant, her work usually explores the idea of home, memory, and loss as it relates to immigration, refugees, and other marginalized groups of people who are not often heard.

She has written one full-length collection, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, and a pamphlet, Her Blue Body. She has won numerous awards, including the inaugural African Poetry Prize in 2013.

Her poem, “women who are ‘difficult’ to love”, is widely known and has become the rallying call for young women as they wrestle the difficulties of unrequited love at a time when women’s personal freedoms and well being has come to threaten traditional notions and expectations of women in relationships.

Enjoy the poem below.

“women who are ‘difficult’ to love”

you are a horse running alone

and he tries to tame you

compares you to an impossible highway

to a burning house

says you are blinding him

that he could never leave you

forget you

want anything but you

you dizzy him, you are unbearable

every woman before or after you

is doused in your name

you fill his mouth

his teeth ache with memory of taste

his body just a long shadow seeking yours

but you are always too intense

frightening in the way you want him

unashamed and sacrificial

he tells you that no man can live up to the one who

lives in your head

and you tried to change didn’t you?

closed your mouth more

tried to be softer


less volatile, less awake

but even when sleeping you could feel

him travelling away from you in his dreams

so what did you want to do, love

split his head open?

you can’t make homes out of human beings

someone should have already told you that

and if he wants to leave

then let him leave

you are terrifying

and strange and beautiful

something not everyone knows how to love.


Watch Shire read the poem in the video below:

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: January 23, 2018


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