Warsan Shire: the Reads of a Modern, Living Poet

Warsan Shire is a great example of a modern poet who inspires her readers to the point where they engage.  At risk of infringing on copyright laws, her fans have produced their own Youtube videos, blogs and websites to honour her work.  She has inspired her readers to be active and passionate about poetry.

As a result, Warsan Shire has achieved exactly what I aspire towards as a poet.  She has achieved what I think poetry needs in its readership: active engagement — not just for our beloved ‘dead poets’ societies’ but also our living ones; the poets of this era and generation.

Warsan Shire’s popularity on YouTube alone has garnered over 100K views from these independent videos.  Her poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’ has generated so many different interpretations by other artists that it inspires me to think: Wouldn’t it be great, if all great poems, from living poets, were celebrated in such an unabashed way — giving pop music videos a real run for their money?  And suddenly the reader becomes more involved in judging and valuing what today’s poetry market will and should be.

However, we should note that while her readers are showing love, they aren’t obtaining proper copyright permissions; a sensitive issue with the level of share on the Internet. We all need to hesitate when at risk of infringing on another artist’s intellectual property, no matter how good the intentions are. These laws are in place to protect the work of the artists as well as the publishing industry.

However, I have met lots of obstacles in producing the videos for the current poetry campaign on the lyw Youtube channel.  I, too, have worried a few times if I was going too far in the liberties I was taking to show my appreciation for some poets and poetry. Copyright permissions are hard to get.  Contact information for the poets or the publishers is hard to get, as well.   I have done my best to adhere to the ‘fair use‘ concept used in copyright law and persisted because I believe poetry would have more love and reads, if it were more accessible, in a contemporary way.

I have a small story to illustrate a startling point.  In trying to find choice material for this blog’s poetry appreciation campaign, I started digging for poems from my own dusty library.  My library is a collection that comprises four years as an English Literature major, one year working in a bookstore, which gave me a huge discount on all books, and the rest found while wandering through used and new bookstores looking for random ideas to inspire me in any which way.  In this collection I found an anthology of ‘world contemporary poems’.  I must have bought it about 20 years ago and most likely only read about 30% of it.  Just one month ago, while producing the video ‘… a small piece of poetry can sometimes march’, I found the most amazing poet in this book  –  an amazing poet lying dormant and unknown in my own library all this time because he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  Apparently, he is also described as the greatest living poet of the Arab world.  I had no idea!  Again, he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  I was young when I bought that book.  I skimmed!  How easy it is to miss the extraordinary!

And when I discovered that his poems, ‘Song for A Man in the Dark’ and ‘Elegy for the Time at Hand’ weren’t copied all over the Internet like all my other English favourites, I just wanted to shout his poems to the world.  Adunis.  His name is Adunis, aka Adonis or Ali Ahmad Said Esber.  He’s around eighty years old now.  He has no lack of controversy posted about him online but too few poems.

I wish I could show you all the great poems in my library that are not being actively celebrated online.  I would love a great big, ‘show and tell’, online because there are too many poets lost in my library.  I think poetry needs readers to be encouraged to be active fans. I love the passion of Warsan Shire’s fans.  It gives me hope for the future of poetry.  But there is that fine line:  How do we protect the artists and the artist’s industry while keeping our reads bright and burning?   Something to think about.

Till then, this week’s poetry appreciation video(s) are links to two videos produced for Warsan Shire on Youtube by other artists.  Please enjoy this amazing poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’:

written by lyw

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