***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***
Herein the body is more than its corporeal form. It is a border wall limned with barbed wire, a boat tossed on a treacherous sea between nations, a forest aflame, a line of demarcation, a political statement, a war zone, a site of both refuge and terror, a haunted geography, and a mother’s scream, beautiful and terrible. Herein is a voice forged in fire. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is perhaps 2022’s most anticipated poetry collection and I for one can say it was worth the long wait.
Like a lot of people, my first experience with Warsan Shire and her poetry came vis-à-vis the visual album for Beyoncé’s Lemonade. For those of you who haven’t watched Lemonade, it is composed of eleven chapters, corresponding with the first eleven songs on the album with names like “Intuition” (for “Pray You Catch Me”) and “Redemption” (for “All Night”). In the interstitial spaces between songs, Beyoncé recites pieces of poetry and prose by Warsan Shire. The British-Somali wunderkind, then relatively-unknown outside of the U.K., was catapulted into the spotlight.
Immediately after listening to Lemonade, I bought Shire’s 2011 chapbook, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, which I’ve read several times now. In 2015, she released a chapbook through flipped eye publishing called Her Blue Body, and if you have a copy then you’d be well-advised to hold on tight to it for dear life because I’ve been scouring the Internet for years in search of a copy. I once saw a used copy online for more than $1,000, and if I’d had the money I’d have bought it no questions asked.
Like all of Shire’s work, this collection explores themes of immigration, Black womanhood, Muslim identity, mental health, and sexual violence. I can’t imagine anyone reading it and leaving it unaffected if not completely transformed. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is not to be missed.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems is due to be released by Random House Trade Paperbacks on March 1st, 2022 and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold. Her previous chapbook, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, is available to purchase wherever books are sold.
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