Photo by Nawel Obeid
Reviews & Comments
“A tender love song to Somali culture, customs and people against the backdrop of the North of England. An insightful, lyrical and authentic new voice.”
Vicky Morris – Poet & Jerwood/Arvon mentee
Poetry Wales: Books of the year 2019
The strong and supportive women who permeate the collection interest me most. The pamphlet opens on ‘Victoria Street’ and closes with Yassin’s Ayeeyo (Somali for ‘grandmother’) birthing her father ‘into the palms of our village’. In between these two, we meet a variety of women, ranging from a Hooyo (mother) in ‘Weston Park’ dealing with the ‘loneliness of motherhood’, the aforementioned grandmother, the powerful and subversive central character of ‘Seamstress’, a grieving partner in ‘His Passport’, and mermaids and schoolgirls falling in ‘illicit love on abandoned Ferris wheels’ in ‘Tales’.
The poems are a joy and a revelation to read – uncluttered, often infectiously playful, and also ready to confront tragedy, cruelty and injustice. On every page, this pamphlet had something to teach me about Somaliland and Somali people; but more than that, it offers a taste of an impressively sure-footed new talent. Above all, Tea with Cardamom gives me hope – hope that the latest generation of poets working in the UK will spring surprises, while keeping informed eyes on poetry’s wide-ranging strands and traditions.
Yassin’s writing style is delicate yet tightly woven. It stops her poems from becoming uncomfortable or overwhelming but poignant enough to get the emotive messages of her pieces across, albeit from a protected view, which keeps them enjoyable. Tea with Cardamom is an important book, not only in the writers’ career but also because of the kind of insight it gives into the UK’s societal underbelly and Somali life. It successfully explores how this life is affected by Britain, through a voice that has a refreshing take on its themes and subjects.
Akeem B Review
Tea with Cardamom’ is ambitious in scope, travelling through intergenerational trauma and loss but leavening the grief with dashes of humour and keeping the momentum moving forward to find hope. Warda Yassin demonstrates knowledge of craft and rhythm, knowing when to slow and when to speed up. The result is vibrant poems not afraid to shine a light into shadows in the spirit of exploration and communication.
The Blue Nib Review
Unsurprisingly, that heritage sometimes weighs heavy, and her debut is marked by consummately nuanced, reflexive poetry. This is mature writing, at once urgent and restrained. Some of her control comes from juxtapositions, and the complexities they can tacitly belie: ‘When the war began, my aunt was detained between borders / like a pattern trapped under tapestry. // I love gold eye shadow and reading books about war.’ ‘I want to read a novel about Somalis that isn’t trauma porn’, she writes at the start of ‘Tales’, perhaps the finest poem here. We’re then given a phantasmagorical montage, real and removed.
Winner of the New Poets Prize, Tea with Cardamom by Warda Yassin, a Sheffield-born Somali poet, is an accomplished, poignant reflection on grief, faith, and the cruelty as well as selflessness in society. In ‘In Burco’, one becomes at once an insider and outsider to Burco, Somaliland, where religious schoolboys “chimed Tajweed in unison” and, in the evening, “rental / Range Rovers carried young guests to Plaza.”
And as in so many of Yassin’s poems, there is a distinct tension between a contemporary sensibility and the importance of traditional culture and religion. It is not a criticism to say that in many of the pieces Yassin is watching herself and her community as if from outside, not making judgements but offering a very detailed picture of people and places, the ties that bind and those that don’t.
Nine Arches Press