Your Body Is War

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

This is a collection of harrowing, prismatic lyrics made by severances and war and possessed by memory and place. In a language and 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.

Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria



Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Ethiopian American Mahtem Shiferraw’s Fuchsia examines conceptions of the displaced, disassembled, and nomadic self. Embedded in her poems are colors, elements, and sensations that evoke painful memories related to deep-seated remnants of trauma, war, and diaspora. Yet rooted in these losses and dangers also lie opportunities for mending and reflecting, evoking a distinct sense of hope. Elegant and traditional, the poems in Fuchsia examine what it means to both recall the past and continue onward with a richer understanding.

Fuchsia, culled from robust life and a finely tuned imagination, captures mysteries of the heart and mind alongside everyday rituals. Each poem dares us line by line, and suddenly we’re inside the delicate mechanism of a deep song. The magical, raw, bittersweet duende of Fuchsia speaks boldly. The personal history and emotional architecture of Ethiopia and Eritrea reside in every portentous poem here. But the stories, each shaped and textured by true feeling, are also ours because they beckon to us.

Yusef Komunyakaa, author of The Emperor of Water Clocks


Behind Walls & Glass

Here is a chapbook you might consider lighting on fire! Behind Walls and Glass is a book of short poems that chronicles the sense of loss that comes with displacement and days filled with nostalgia. Some poems really force themselves out into the breathing world; and some, though they seem unassuming, have teeth like shards and will definitely tear you apart.

Mahtem Shiferraw’s poems remind us to return to a state of care. If they are alienated, they are simply being accurate in their report – one is alien only to the degree that one lives in a world without love. These poems shun artifice, shun the surfaces of things unless they align with the deeper yearnings of what even the darkest of nature pulls us back toward – a home deeper than all things that could pose as one, without nurture. And if they are dark, they are dark with a darkness that glows.

Sarah Maclay, author of Music of the Black Room