Naomi Shihab Nye
Sandra & Gary Sojka Visiting Poet
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
A Conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye
4 p.m. Willard Smith Library, Vaughan Literature Building
7 p.m. Bucknell Hall
Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as a "wandering poet." She has spent thirty-seven years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspire students of all ages. Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Middle East, Nye uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the author and/or editor of more than thirty volumes. Her books of poetry include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, A Maze Me: Poems for Girls, Red Suitcase, Words under the Words, Fuel, and You & Yours (a best-selling poetry book of 2006). She is also the author of Mint Snowball (paragraphs); Never in a Hurry and I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You Okay? Tales of Driving and Being Driven (essays); Habibi and Going, Going (novels for young readers); and Baby Radar and Sitti's Secrets (picture books). Other works include eight prize-winning poetry anthologies for young readers, including Time You Let Me In, This Same Sky, The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems & Paintings from the Middle East, and What Have You Lost? Her recent collection of poems for young adults entitled Honeybee won the 2008 Arab American Book Award in the Children's/Young Adult category. Two new books are forthcoming in winter 2012: There Is No Long Distance Now (a collection of very short stories) and Transfer (poems).
Naomi Shihab Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, and numerous honors for her children's literature, including two Jane Addams Children's Book Awards. In 2011 Nye won the Golden Rose Award given by the New England Poetry Club, the oldest poetry reading series in the country. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is a regular columnist for Organica. Her work has been presented on National Public Radio on A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer's Almanac. She has been featured on two PBS poetry specials: "The Language of Life with Bill Moyers" and "The United States of Poetry" and also appeared on NOW with Bill Moyers. In January 2010 she was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.