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.
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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
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: