Our Men Do Not Belong To Us
Our Men Do Not Belong to Us is the opening noise of a poet who has already gained a significant amount of praise for her poetry. Warsan Shire’s poems are direct, but they are works of such delicate construction and layered insight that one quickly realizes what seems “direct” is necessarily wholly indirect, questioning, uncertain, and vulnerable. Her poems are about how women deal with the violence of all kinds of exploitation, but they are never didactic or simplistic. Shire fills her poems with the effects of her complex sense of identity in transcultural Africa.—Kwame Dawes

Our Men Do Not Belong To Us Details

TitleOur Men Do Not Belong To Us
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 14th, 2019
PublisherSlapering Hol Press
Rating
GenrePoetry, Feminism, Cultural, Africa

Our Men Do Not Belong To Us Review

  • Huda Sobhy
    January 1, 1970
    "Is that what we’re here for?To sit at kitchen tables, countingon our fingers the ones who died,those who left, and the others who were taken by the police,or by drugsor by illnessor by other women?It makes no sense.Look at your skin, her mouth, these lips, those eyes,my God, listen to that laugh.The only darkness we should allow into our lives is the night,for even then, we have the moon."
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    Warsan Shire is one of the poets I was hoping to get to during National Poetry Month and I received two collections through interlibrary loan.Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth was published first (2011) in the UK, by the English lottery funded mouthmark series. Our Men Do Not Belong To Us is actually a chapbook from the Seven New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook boxed set edited by Chris Abani and Kwami Dawes (2014) Most of the poems in this chapbook are also in the original collection, s Warsan Shire is one of the poets I was hoping to get to during National Poetry Month and I received two collections through interlibrary loan.Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth was published first (2011) in the UK, by the English lottery funded mouthmark series. Our Men Do Not Belong To Us is actually a chapbook from the Seven New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook boxed set edited by Chris Abani and Kwami Dawes (2014) Most of the poems in this chapbook are also in the original collection, so just try for whichever is easiest to get to.Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet living in London. Her poems are visceral, about women's bodies and the grief they carry. They are about war and loss and migration, and the voices of different generations. She is also known for her poems used in the spoken word sections of Beyonce's Lemonade, but those poems are not found here.
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  • Hasan Makhzoum
    January 1, 1970
    I’ll be honest, unlike the (incomprehensibly ) praised herd of newly famous female ‘twitter-youtube poets’, I found that Shire is a talent that deserves to be recognized.“Haram” is my favorite poem in this collectionHaramMy older sister soaps between her legs, her haira prayer of curls. When she was my age, she stolethe neighbor’s husband, burned his name into her skin. For weeks she smelled of cheap perfume and dying flesh.It’s 4:00 a.m., and she winks at me, bending over the sink, her small br I’ll be honest, unlike the (incomprehensibly ) praised herd of newly famous female ‘twitter-youtube poets’, I found that Shire is a talent that deserves to be recognized.“Haram” is my favorite poem in this collectionHaramMy older sister soaps between her legs, her haira prayer of curls. When she was my age, she stolethe neighbor’s husband, burned his name into her skin. For weeks she smelled of cheap perfume and dying flesh.It’s 4:00 a.m., and she winks at me, bending over the sink, her small breasts bruised from sucking.She smiles, pops her gum before saying—boys are haram; don’t ever forget that.Some nights I hear her in her room screaming.We play surah al baqarah to drown her out.Anything that leaves her mouth sounds like sex.Our mother has banned her from saying God’s name.***When I was reading it I instantly remembered this excerpt from We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what women do. We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments— which I think can be a good thing— but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. (..)We police girls, we praise girls for virginity, but we don’t praise boys for virginity. (…)We teach girls shame. ‘Close your legs!’ ‘Cover yourself!’ We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up—and this is the worst thing we do to girls—they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an artform.” *** In her poem, Shire approaches the Haram with a sarcastic tone to deliver a subtle message regarding the rigid islamic morality that the women in particular are subjected to. (the one that the poet refers to is mentioned in this document under the question number 11http://www.mailofislam.com/muslim_wom...) Haram is certainly one of the most pronounced words by any Muslim in his life time for it is a central concept of the ethical system in Islam.The term Haram (Sin/ Forbidden/Profane; its antonym is Halal or the permissible by God) denotes actions/practices/expressions that are prohibited and forbidden by Allah. The Halal/Haram are parallel to the moral duality of good/bad. As in all the monotheist religions, every misguidance is Hell-bound so the one who commits Haram will be punished in the afterlife (For a fair interpretation of the term and its religious and cultural significancehttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haram).The islamic moral standards apply to all the aspects of the society and they address every aspect of a Muslim’s both private and public life. Numerous rules and regulations (their primary sources being the Qur'an and the Sunnah which is the record of the teachings (Hadiths) of the prophet) are laid down by the Shari'ah (The Islamic code of laws and rules).Therefore, every social norm and principle, practice, law, value, tradition, behavior (specifically the one related to the sexual life) is pivoted around the Haram as one of the main divine commandments that define the morality of human action .However, the debate on the definition, the content and the theoretical foundations of the Haram is controversial between the reformists/adaptationists and the fundamentalists (also, many variations of Islam exist with regards to beliefs, practices etc..) .. The interpretation of the fundamental ethical principles of the moral islamic code is problematic for they are considered to be opposed to the Modernity (The Western paradigm of modernity more precisely.. the essential question to which i don’t have an answer though is: is there a single model of modernity?)Unconvincingly, most Muslim scholars argue that culture is to blame here and not the religion.Unfortunately, in the islamic jurisprudence established over many decades, the tenets of the Islam, as prescribed in the normative sources, were subjects of orthodox interpretations by the religious institutions and currents..Most Muslim women live constantly under the pressure of ‘puritan’ patriarchal societies and are obedient to a moral conduct and behavior.The question of the compatibility of the islamic code of morals with the social evolutions in the modern life, regarding specifically the Women's rights and the individual liberties, is controversial and complex. According to many recent studies, the societies where Islam is the dominant religious demographic are ranked among the worst for Gender equality.It is argued among the scholars critical of Islam that this religion is inherently inconsistent with the requirements and the challenges of the modern (pluralistic) societies, and that it is irreconcilable with the modern values and trends such as democracy, rights, nationalism, rationality, science, equality and progress.Another poem that I particularly likedWHAT WE HAVEOur men do not belong to us. Even my own father, left one afternoon, is not mine. My brother is in prison, is not mine. My uncles, they go back home and they are shot in the head, are not mine. My cousins, stabbed in the street for being too—or not—enough, are not mine.Then the men we try to love, say we carry too much loss, wear too much black, are too heavy to be around, much too sad to love. Then they leave and we mourn them too. Is that what we’re here for? To sit at kitchen tables, counting on our fingers the ones who died, those who left and the others who were taken by the police, or by drugs, or by illness or by other women. It makes no sense. Look at your skin, her mouth, these lips, those eyes, my God, listen to that laugh. The only darkness we should allow into our lives is the night, and even then, we have the moon.***
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  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    SouvenirYou brought the war with youunknowingly, perhaps, on your skinin hurried suitcasesin photographsplumes of it in your hairunder your nailsmaybe it wasin your blood.[...]
  • Vicky N.
    January 1, 1970
    An incredible truthful and heartfelt collection of poems that narrates the pain of women from Africa.It tells their struggles in society and even the trouble of leaving their country for another and never fitting in.Warsan Shire is mostly known because Beyoncé utilized her poetry in her latest album, and she made everyone a favor by introducing this writer. Even though International Poetry Day is behind, I would recommend anyone from grabbing this and giving it a read.
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  • Joshie
    January 1, 1970
    "I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going,where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome andmy beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with theshame of not belonging; my body is longing. I am the sin ofmemory and the absence of memory. I watch the news, and mymouth becomes a sink full of blood. The lines, the forms, thepeople at the desks, the calling cards, the immigration officer,the looks on the street, the cold settling deep into my bones,the English class "I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going,where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome andmy beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with theshame of not belonging; my body is longing. I am the sin ofmemory and the absence of memory. I watch the news, and mymouth becomes a sink full of blood. The lines, the forms, thepeople at the desks, the calling cards, the immigration officer,the looks on the street, the cold settling deep into my bones,the English classes at night, the distance I am from home. ButAlhamdulillah*, all of this is better than the scent of a womancompletely on fire; or a truckload of men who look like myfather, pulling out my teeth and nails; or fourteen men betweenmy legs; or a gun; or a promise; or a lie; or his name; or hismanhood in my mouth."Our Men Do Not Belong To Us is a poetry collection with themes about civil war -- its victims and its effect on these victims as refugees in an unfamiliar, new settlement -- impaired relationships with men and with, often than not, women in the narrator's family. Warsan Shire writes with compelling words, using them at the right time hence resulting to a leaving effect on the tip of the reader's tongue to ponder about, stir emotions and bask in, vivid details and adept portrayal of emotions about solitude, loss and yearning. These can often be shocking, scandalous and saddening altogether. My personal favorites are What We Own, When We Last Saw Your Father, Conversations About Home, Chemistry and SouvenirContents-What We Own-Ugly-Tea with Our Grandmothers-Things We Lost in the Summer-First Kiss-Haram-When We Last Saw Your Father-Conversations about Home (at the Deportation Center)-Trying to Swim with God-Snow-Residue-Grandfather’s Hands-Souvenir-Chemistry_______________________*praise be to god
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  • Georgina
    January 1, 1970
    Her words left me feeling burnt. I don't know how to explain it but it was like putting salt into a wound I didn't know I carried. I read two of them out to my Kenyan mother and she sat in silence and I know they struck her too. Maybe it's the East African shared experience, maybe it's her brutal honestly, maybe it's the fact that the writing is so obviously not for me that it hit me harder. I don't know what it is but I found it incredible.
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  • maria ✰
    January 1, 1970
    "I wear my loneliness like a taffeta dress riding up my thigh,and you cannot help but want me.You think it's cruelhow I break your heart, to write a poem.I think it's alchemy."
  • Jasmine Darcy
    January 1, 1970
    Kinda disappointing because I was expecting a new poetry collection with NEW poems but all we got was Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth EXACTLY with 2 or 3 other poems. Come on. Also, this book is NOWHERE to be found on the entire planet (no exaggeration) so buying it is out of the question. Although, after digging deep into the core of the earth for several decades internet for an hour or so, I managed to find a PDF version of the book. However, besides the blatant repetition of the other po Kinda disappointing because I was expecting a new poetry collection with NEW poems but all we got was Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth EXACTLY with 2 or 3 other poems. Come on. Also, this book is NOWHERE to be found on the entire planet (no exaggeration) so buying it is out of the question. Although, after digging deep into the core of the earth for several decades internet for an hour or so, I managed to find a PDF version of the book. However, besides the blatant repetition of the other poetry collection, the few new poems added were breath-taking and beautifully written as usual. Shire uses no set structure in her poetry and writes of her experiences and the struggles people in less talked about places of the world go through. She does this brilliantly and heart-breakingly. She weaves beautifully constructed similes with well-placed metaphors, writes fluently and simply about deep and tragic issues that matter.(Not this brainless fluff about breakups and other trivialities. cough cough Milk and Honey.) She discusses everything meaningful and touching from war and refugees to feminism and heartbreak in an unflinchingly honest and original way.Lately, I've been super into modern poetry and been really noticing it's divide from traditional poetry. Modern poetry, especially during this era, really has revived poetry as a whole and resurfaced it's message of spreading, well.......messages. With young poets at the head of this, modern poetry is no longer this mind-boggling stream of sentences that kids are forced to analyse at school(I'm looking at you, Shakespeare) but a simple and understandable means of expression. Would definitely recommend this as well as Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire. I honestly could not get enough. Shire's work has also been used, most notably, by Beyoncé in her 2016 album Lemonade. I hope she keeps getting more recognition, as well as writing more poetry (it's been a while, Warsan Shire, and the people are not happy). MY FAV QUOTESOur men do not belong to us. Even my own father, left one afternoon, is notmine. My brother is in prison, is not mine. My uncles, they go back home and they are shot in the head, are not mine. My cousins, stabbed in the street forbeing too – or not – enough, are not mine.Then the men we try to love, say we carry too much loss, wear too much black,are too heavy to be around, much too sad to love. Then they leave and wemourn them too. Is that what we’re here for? To sit at kitchen tables, countingon our fingers the ones who died, those who left and the others who weretakenby the police, or by drugs, or by illness or by other women. It makes no sense.Look at your skin, her mouth, these lips, those eyes, my God, listen to thatlaugh. The only darkness we should allow into our lives is the night, and eventhen, we have the moonTHE HOUSEMother says there are locked rooms inside all women; kitchen of lust,bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy.Sometimes the men - they come with keys,and sometimes, the men - they come with hammersYou can find my other reviews here: https://iamthebookworm.wordpress.com/
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  • Zeeshan Ahmed
    January 1, 1970
    I was introduced to Warsan Shire through a small poem. Then I found out that Beyonce's Lemonade had her poetry too. A beautiful collection filled with heartfelt, gut-wrenching poems. Loved every word.
  • PATRICK
    January 1, 1970
    Most of the poems are also in Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth Way too short though, I want more
  • Naila Amin
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this oh so much I can't justify it by trying to put it into words.Everything I've read by her ever is amazing, and I just love her so much. I came across most of her poems on my dash and I'm glad she got the recognition she deserves when she was featured on Beyonce's Lemonade which boosted her popularity. Some of the poems here feel personal and I love how some writers can touch someone through their words, you know? Like not skin but soul? Yeah so that's cool. Personal favorite was "Ugl I loved this oh so much I can't justify it by trying to put it into words.Everything I've read by her ever is amazing, and I just love her so much. I came across most of her poems on my dash and I'm glad she got the recognition she deserves when she was featured on Beyonce's Lemonade which boosted her popularity. Some of the poems here feel personal and I love how some writers can touch someone through their words, you know? Like not skin but soul? Yeah so that's cool. Personal favorite was "Ugly" specially because of the last verse :"Your daughter's face is a small riot,her hands are a civil war,a refugee camp behind each ear,a body littered with ugly things,but God,doesn't she wear the world well."
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  • Wriza
    January 1, 1970
    “The only darkness we should allow into our lives is the night, for even then, we have the moon.”
  • Aviecayl Uy
    January 1, 1970
    "I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here." — Warsan ShireAh, powerful words.
  • Gabie (OwlEyesReviews)
    January 1, 1970
    I couldn't get enough. I honestly think that I'm going into a year of wonderful poetry.
  • Leslie
    January 1, 1970
    Technically these were many of the same poems from Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, but I definitely did not mind reading them again.
  • Tina
    January 1, 1970
    How do you review a collection of poems? I don't know, but I love the way Shire uses words and makes every poem into a story of its own.
  • Marzi
    January 1, 1970
    Everyone should read Warsan Shire. If you read just one poet, read her.
  • Njoud Sharayiah
    January 1, 1970
    "The only darkness we should allow into our lives is the night, for even then, we have the moon. " .. majestic poetry
  • Fatima
    January 1, 1970
    five stars no surprise there
  • Mag Ortiz
    January 1, 1970
    En general no me gusta la poesia pero Warsan es mi poeta favorita.
  • Alix
    January 1, 1970
    Can you count multiple readings if they're all over two days? All the trigger warnings, but you still want to read this. I promise."I want to lie down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you’re young and asleep. Look at all these borders foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate."https://media.poetryfoundation.org/up...
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  • Amna Mahder-Bashi
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent! Especially liked the war and refugee poems."They ask me, How did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan Desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket. I hope the journey meant more than miles, because all my children are in the water. I thought the sea was safer than the land [...]" Excellent! Especially liked the war and refugee poems."They ask me, How did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan Desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of
 Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket. I hope the journey meant more than miles, because all my children are in the water. I thought the sea was safer than the land [...]"
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  • Amal
    January 1, 1970
    There is a haunting lyrical quality to Ms. Shire's work that I have not seen in poetry in a very long time. There is a sense of defiance mixed with anger and still deeper resignation. She is simply brilliant. In this particular collection, my favourite piece is Conversations about Home (at the Deportation Center). I tried to get the unabridged version of this on Amazon and failed. It is unfortunate because I would have loved to read the rest.
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  • Bryn (Plus Others)
    January 1, 1970
    I had read most of these in another chapbook, although some of them are slightly altered -- and they are so good I am glad to read them again. Shire is an amazing, powerful poet, and her work should be much better known.
  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely stunning.
  • Lucas Verbunt
    January 1, 1970
    Warsan is gold. This one has the best poems of her other collection + great new aditions. I like this one more!
  • Emily Gibbons
    January 1, 1970
    This seems to be a very elusive collection of poetry, which I think is an utter shame. Poetry foundation has the abridged 32 page copy available for free download here, and there are contact details to obtain the full copy.Every single poem or text in this collection was fantastic, and I'm honestly finding it hard to find somewhere to start. I think I would be happy if I could make Conversations about Home (at the Deportation Centre) mandatory reading for every damn person in the UK alone. Any This seems to be a very elusive collection of poetry, which I think is an utter shame. Poetry foundation has the abridged 32 page copy available for free download here, and there are contact details to obtain the full copy.Every single poem or text in this collection was fantastic, and I'm honestly finding it hard to find somewhere to start. I think I would be happy if I could make Conversations about Home (at the Deportation Centre) mandatory reading for every damn person in the UK alone. Anything I write in this review won't be sufficient to capture this poetry, so instead I'll leave a few quotes. Since it's free, and only 32 pages, no-one has any excuse for not reading this. In the car, my mother stares at me through therearview mirror, the leather sticks to the back of my thighs. I open my legs like a well oiled door,daring her to look at me and give me what I had not lost - a name. - Things We Lost in the Summer No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. I've been carrying the old anthem in my mouth for so long that there's no space for another song, another tongue, or another language. I know a shame that shrouds, totally engulfs. I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I'm bloated with language I can't afford to forget. - Conversations about Home (at the Deportation Centre) Look at all these borders foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate. I'm the color of hot sun on my face; my mother's remains were never buried. I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes, it feels like someone else is wearing my body. - Conversation about Home (at the Deportation Centre)
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    For Women Who Are Difficult to Loveyou are a horse running aloneand he tries to tame youcompares you to an impossible highwayto a burning housesays you are blinding himthat he could never leave youforget youwant anything but youyou dizzy him, you are unbearableevery woman before or after youis doused in your nameyou fill his mouthhis teeth ache with memory of tastehis body just a long shadow seeking yoursbut you are always too intensefrightening in the way you want himunashamed and sacrificialhe For Women Who Are Difficult to Loveyou are a horse running aloneand he tries to tame youcompares you to an impossible highwayto a burning housesays you are blinding himthat he could never leave youforget youwant anything but youyou dizzy him, you are unbearableevery woman before or after youis doused in your nameyou fill his mouthhis teeth ache with memory of tastehis body just a long shadow seeking yoursbut you are always too intensefrightening in the way you want himunashamed and sacrificialhe tells you that no man can live up to the one wholives in your headand you tried to change didn't you?closed your mouth moretried to be softerprettierless volatile, less awakebut even when sleeping you could feelhim travelling away from you in his dreamsso what did you want to do, lovesplit his head open?you can't make homes out of human beingssomeone should have already told you thatand if he wants to leavethen let him leaveyou are terrifyingand strange and beautifulsomething not everyone knows how to love.
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  • Joanna
    January 1, 1970
    As other reviewers have stated, this is basically the same collection as Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, albeit reordered and with maybe 3 new poems. 3 stars since I enjoyed the poems the same as when I literally just read them in the other collection, though I partly want to rate lower out of annoyance that I essentially read TMMHtGB twice in a row, back-to-back, expecting two different collections.
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