These days, every fifth, conscious black person you meet is a self proclaimed poet. The spoken word movement has become over saturated. You know the cadence. You’ve heard the finger snaps. Should we blame Russell Simmons? I don’t know. But I say all that to say that even though poetry and spoken word have become a bit of a commercialized, there are still real poets out there. And as they say, “cream always rises to the top.” Which is the case for Warsan Shire, who was recently named London’s first young poet laureate. I first stumbled across Shire’s name on Tumblr and have subsequently dug everything I’ve read from her.
Shire, 24, is a Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer, editor and educator based in London. She’s read her work all over the world including places like South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada and Kenya. She published her debut book, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, in 2011. Shire’s name was chosen from a list of six young poets. According to the BBC, she will spend the next year creating work that reflects “the ever-changing city,” starting with a residency at the Houses of Parliament. The announcement was made on National Poetry Day, October 3rd, during an event at Parliament.
Shire’s tenure as a poet laureate is a part of poetry and spoken word program Spoke. It seeks to offer people the opportunity to watch, perform and develop careers in spoken word and poetry performance in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Dennis Hone, chief executive of the park said, “I congratulate all those who took part and have shown London is blessed with some really talented poets. It is our vision for east London to be a thriving cultural district and Warsan as the first Young Poet Laureate for London will play a key part in that transformation.”
Congratulations to Warsan! This is a huge accomplishment. And at such a young age? Phenomenal.