The Sunday Poem: Naomi Shihab Nye

 

 

Naomi Shihab Nye (Photo by Kin Man Hui for the San Antonio Express)

 

This Sunday I have a humorous, poignant poem by Naomi Shihab Nye to share.

Nye’s found poem, which is comprised entirely of statements made by her young son, is a reminder that we’re surrounded by comic, inventive language on a daily basis, but that we often overlook the poetry in these everyday encounters.

In her introduction, Nye quotes the poet William Stafford. When people asked him, “When did you become a poet?” he would respond, “That’s not the right question…The question is, ‘When did you stop being a poet?'”

I laughed out loud more than once while watching Naomi Shihab Nye read “One Boy Told Me.” One of the best things about having a blog like Gwarlingo is that I can pass Nye’s hilarious poem along to you.

Enjoy your Sunday.

(If you’re reading this in an email, click here to watch the video. If you want to leave a comment, click the link and scroll to the bottom.)

 

 

 

 

About Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her B.A. in English and world religions from Trinity University.

Known for poetry that lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people, and objects, Nye has said that, for her, “the primary source of poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.”

Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including You and Yours (2005), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, as well as Fuel (1998), Red Suitcase (1994), and Hugging the Jukebox (1982).

After the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, Nye became an active voice for Arab-Americans, speaking out against both terrorism and prejudice. The lack of understanding between Americans and Arabs led her to collect poems she had written which dealt with the Middle East and her experiences as an Arab-American into one volume. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002) received praise for the timeliness of its message.

Nye gives voice to her experience as an Arab-American through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. About her work, the poet William Stafford has said, “her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”

In addition to her poetry collections, Nye has produced fiction for children, poetry and song recordings, and poetry translations. As a children’s writer, Nye is acclaimed for her sensitivity and cultural awareness. Her book Sitti’s Secrets (1994) concerns an Arab-American child’s relationship with her sitti—Arabic for grandmother—who lives in a Palestinian village. Hazel Rochman, in Booklist, praised Nye for capturing the emotions of the “child who longs for a distant grandparent.” In 1997 Nye published Habibi, her first young-adult novel. Readers meet Liyana Abboud, an Arab-American teen who moves with her family to her Palestinian father’s native country during the 1970s, only to discover that the violence in Jerusalem has not yet abated.

Nye has received awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall Prize, the International Poetry Forum, as well as four Pushcart Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. In 1988 she received The Academy of American Poets’ Lavan Award, selected by W. S. Merwin.

Her poems and short stories have appeared in various journals and reviews throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. She has traveled to the Middle East and Asia for the United States Information Agency three times, promoting international goodwill through the arts.

She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010.

Nye told Contemporary Authors: “I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime…Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.”

 

 

This video is part of the Poetry Everywhere project airing on public television. Produced by David Grubin Productions and WGBH Boston, in association with the Poetry Foundation. Filmed at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. “One Boy Told Me” © Naomi Shihab Nye. Biography courtesy The Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.


By | 2016-11-11T21:53:14+00:00 02.11.12|Greatest Hits, The Sunday Poem, Words|1 Comment

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.

One Comment

  1. Kathryn February 12, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Thanks Michelle. So much joy and energy, such happy-to-be-alive words. The first poem i read by Naomi was “Kindness,” and i was struck by her humanity. You know how some poems are proof that you will not only love but like the poet? “Kindness” is one of them. Enjoy your Sunday

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