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If you liked Beyonce’s Lemonade, you’ll love Warsan Shire, the poet featured in it

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“For women who are difficult to love.”
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Beyoncé’s latest album, Lemonade, was released on Apr. 23, and has already broken the Internet. Presented in a special on HBO, the 12 track album includes Formation, the single she sang at the Super Bowl, and feels deeply personal, with several songs about heartbreak, infidelity, and rage.

Being a woman—and a black one at that—is the core of this work. And just as she did with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s words on feminism in Flawless, Beyoncé featured the work of a black female writer in this album.

Warsan Shire, is a Somali-British poetess who was named the first Young Poet Laureate of London in 2014 at age 25. Her poetry is about migration (“no one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark,” she writes), identity, trauma—but it’s also a deep manifestation of what it is to be a woman, and search for love. In for women who are “difficult” to love, she writes:

and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him traveling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave

On her Twitter account, where she mixes (pretty good) jokes with poetry, she says:

In another poem, she prays:

Dear Allah
if it’ll keep my heart soft
break my heart every day.

Her words are tough and soft at the same time. When she writes about heartbreak, there is sadness—but such resolution, too, perfectly distilled in the unbearable weight of staying:

i let you leave, i need someone who knows how to stay.

This feeling might just be what Beyoncé in channeling in her latest work.

In warsan versus melancholy, you can listen to Shire read a selection of her poems. You’ll hear plenty of her words in Lemonade, sure, but listen to her work independently. There’s a reason it inspired the queen.

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