Your Body Is War


Your Body Is War

Mahtem Shiferraw

African Poetry Book Series

90 pages


March 2019


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2019


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2019


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Your Body Is War contemplates the psychology of the female human body, looking at the ways it exists and moves in the world, refusing to be contained in the face of grief and trauma. Bold and raw, Mahtem Shiferraw’s poems explore what the woman’s body has to do to survive and persevere in the world, especially in the aftermath of abuse.

A groundbreaking collection, the poems in Your Body Is War embody elements of conflict, making them simultaneously a place of destruction and of freedom.

Author Bio

Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet and visual artist from Ethiopia and Eritrea and now divides her time between Los Angeles and Addis Ababa. She is the author of the poetry collection Fuchsia (Nebraska, 2016) and the chapbook Behind Walls and Glass.


"As Shiferraw refuses silence, rejects erasure, she braids the pain of women she loves into her poetry. Indeed, the poet writes on a continuum, refusing boundaries. And in so doing, Your Body Is War gives the reader stunning poems that re-create the pain and triumph of women the world would rather unsee."—Mary Catherine Ford, World Literature Today

“Elegant and heart-wrenching, these poems possess a powerful voice that travels across oceans to reconnect with the language and stories of Ethiopia, Mahtem Shiferraw’s homeland. Your Body Is War speaks poignantly about the inherited historical traumas, the ache and beauty of memory, and the strength it takes to endure the wounds of a nation, of a family, of a conflicted self.”—Rigoberto González, author of What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood

“This is a collection of harrowing, prismatic lyrics made by severances and war and possessed by memory and place. In a language that dilates between the epic and the humble, nearly invisible, Mahtem Shiferraw does not once allow readers to imagine that war is anything but bodied, personal, inherited. Shiferraw’s work is elemental, brilliant, fierce; and with mystery and exactitude, she pushes language past itself and into breathtaking resonances. There are lines I will never forget for their power and for what they reveal about how this poet’s thinking shapes the terms of her and her speakers’ survival(s). ‘I am yellow, / I have yellow in me // and it does not / let me die.’ I believe these poems are part of that survival—a trace, a strategy, a prayer record assembled in the ruin of Then that is perpetual, that is also always Now.”—Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria

Table of Contents

Swallowing Suns    
Your Body Is War (I)     
The Art of Invisibility    
The Suicide Chamber    
The Tree of My Deaths    
Behind Walls and Glass    
Your Body Is War (II)     
Ash and Blue    
Body of Punishments    
Like a Lover’s Quarrel    
The Curse of Ishmael    
Black and Blue    
Death by Trains    
The Memory of the Body    
Your Body Is War (III)     
The Old Tree    
The Wrong Kind of Dream    
Your Body Is War (IV)     
Journey with Dante    
At the Mad Man’s    
Water Dreams    
The Body Book    
Conversations with Self    
The Yellow Woman    
The Fruit Mother    
Ghost Procession    
Your Body Is War (V)     

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