Home by Warshan Shire

British Poet Warsan Shire was born in Kenya to parents from Somalia. At 24 she became the first young poet laureate of London. Her poem, Home, has become a falling call for refugee advocates around the world. Writing in the Guardian Marta Bausells and Maeve Shearlaw describe how “Home” came to be.

The young Nairobi-born, London-raised writer first drafted another poem about the refugee experience, Conversations about home (at a deportation centre), in 2009 after spending time with a group of young refugees who had fled troubled homelands including Somalia, Eritrea, Congo and Sudan. The group gave a “warm” welcome to Shire in their makeshift home at the abandoned Somali Embassy in Rome, she explains, describing the conditions as cold and cramped. The night before she visited, a young Somali had jumped to his death off the roof. The encounter, she says, opened her eyes to the harsh reality of living as an undocumented refugee in Europe: “I wrote the poem for them, for my family and for anyone who has experienced or lived around grief and trauma in that way.”

This poem includes racist language as well as a reference to sexual violence. Both are included purposefully, that said, we recommended previewing the poem before using it with students.

Teaching Ideas

Before watching the poem you might ask students to take time to reflect on the idea of home in writing.

  • What feelings do you associate with home?
  • Why would move or migrate from home?

Active listening

Reflecting on the poem

  • Consider using the see-feel-think-wonder routine from Project Zero to open reflection.
  • You might use the making sense of text routine to focus on individual words and phrases within the poem.
  • Home explores refugee stories and experiences, what is our moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to refugees and people on the move?

Taking Action