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This review is taken from PN Review 268, Volume 49 Number 2, November - December 2022.

Cover of Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head
Shash TrevettWarsan Shire, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head (Chatto & Windus) £12.99;
Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Quiet (Faber) £10.99.
Here I Am

Much has already been written about this eagerly anticipated debut collection from Warsan Shire. Reviewers have dissected each finely crafted poem, writing about the depiction of violence against women and of the stranglehold of patriarchy in Somali culture. In ‘Bless the Qumayo’, Shire writes about ‘torches of contempt’ that ‘welcome / us onto this planet’; in fact, the ‘cruel person’ lurks behind and within the lines of almost every poem in this collection. The cruelty of cultural practices which keep girls ‘behind the glass’, restricted to watching boys enjoy the freedom of fresh air (‘Glitter on the Mouth of Boys’); which cut and mutilate the bodies of girls so that like ‘mermaids / with new legs’ they ‘learn to walk again’ (‘The Abubakr Girls are Different’); which foam with frenzy at the sight of spilt blood on bridal sheets (‘Bless this Blood’); which make ‘women flinch at touch’; which form a noose around the necks of young mothers. ‘Assimilation’ is a masterful dissection of the plight of refugees; ‘Bless this House’ a milestone in the writing about child abuse. Shire writes with a deliberate urgency, each word heavy with the undertones of trauma and cultural memory, each poem a cry from the heart for all those women who are subsumed by silence.

And yet… yet, what caught my eye in this collection was the relationship between women themselves. Mothers and daughters featured heavily in Shire’s previous publications, and here too women are seen as madonnas, mothers or whores by men, society and, rather subtly, ...


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