Teaching my mother how to give birth Review

Written by: Warsan Shire

No. 10 Mouthmark Series

 Mouthmark: poetry is a kind of literary pointillism applied on a jazz-blues-sex-rock-and-rolled canvas with sweat, tears, and spittle as primary colours; if you don’t get it you’re not listening…


A stunning quote that introduces you to the immersive, evocative and punchy words of the poems that follow.

Face paced, emotional and distressing, these poems capture the beauty of words on a page and the sensory elements poetry can bring as you hear the ink leave the paper before you and enter into your head as it paints rich imagery before your eyes.

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The writing is poignant, direct and unapologetic. It is delicate in phrasing and structure, but has an underbelly of context heavily weaved into each line, then gently eases you into the subject of families, and the impact of a broken home from the perspective of the most innocent view; the child. It explores how understandings meander as we grow and learn more.

The cultural knowledge experienced in the topics discussed in the anthology demonstrate a life of difficulty pinioning the difficulties of women and the turmoil of a identity as we journey from child, to adolescent, and onto adult. The expectations thrown upon women as they reach the age of sexualisation when blood first hits the sheets cause both an internal and external battle of will, expectations and traditions. It captures the relentless imbalance between personal and sociological ideals, morals and beliefs and unfolds the miseries and tragedies and triumphs perhaps in a way as women walk towards these gates and milestones; embracing and progressing through them.

It poses the critical question: Just what exactly is the price of a woman attempting to lead her life, in a world that been loaded against her since birth?

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The poems are brazen in their dissection of sexual identity and relation; as we as children first become aware and acquainted to ourselves of beings of desire. It is a refreshing commentary on subjects traditionally deemed; being better left under the table.

A beautiful dictionary of life, gender, sex and the paths we take from birth and the lives we experience under different cultural environments. Both soft and brutal; taking on board both kind and cruel. Warsan Shire is a contemporary talent and composer; whose work pins the essence of what poetry is supposed to be.


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