"I tried to change. Tried to be softer, prettier," Beyoncé says in a scene in Lemonade, her HBO special and visual album tour de force.
But the words are not her own. They belong to Somali-British poet Warsan Shire.
In fact, words from some of Shire's poems — including "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love," "The Unbearable Weight of Staying (The End of the Relationship)," and "Nail Technician as Palm Reader" — served as interludes between songs for Lemonade. And if you looked closely, you'll see that in the production credits for Lemonade, Shire is credited as "Film Adaptation and Poetry."
Long before Beyoncé came along, 27-year-old Shire was making a name for herself as an accomplished poet. In 2013, Shire won the U.K.'s Brunel University inaugural prize for African Poetry. She also became London's first Young Poet Laureate.
Over the years, she's released two pamphlets — Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth and Her Blue Body. She's even been the subject of a profile piece by The New Yorker, which opened with the line, "It's a rare poet who can write movingly about African migration to Europe and also tweet humorously about the VH1 reality show Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta.”
Those glances at the past and present shone through during Lemonade, with Beyoncé quoting lines like, "The nail technician pushes my cuticles / back, turns my hand over / stretches the skin on my palm / and says I see your daughters / and their daughters."
When Beyoncé quoted Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her 2013 self-titled album, the BeyHive accepted her with open arms. Now, it's Shire's turn.
Listen to Shire recite "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love," below: