CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (#37): 2019–2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate, Palestinian-American, Naomi Shihab Nye; “When did you stop being a poet?”

this photograph is of International Poet Naomi Shihab Nye at a book signing courtesy of Micahd under CC BY-SA 3.0

“Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer on its own.” Naomi Shihab Nye



Naomi Shihab Nye (نعومي شهاب ناي‎) (b. 1952) is a poet, novelist, essayist, anthologist and peacemaker. He father was a Palestinian; her mother, an American. She started writing when she was six-years-old. The breadth of her published work encompasses poetry, young-adult fiction, picture books, essays and novels. She calls herself a “wandering poet” but refers to San Antonio, Texas as home.


Habibi [recommended and not just for teens] is her 1997 young adult novel. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of fourteen-year-old Liyana Abboud and her family, her Arab father, American mother, and brother Rafik, who move from their home in St. Louis to Mr. Abboud’s native home of Palestine in the 1970s. It was named an American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Book for the Teens and a Texas Institute of Letters Best Book for Young Readers. It received the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, given annually to a children’s book that advances the causes of peace and social equality. Habibi deals with a range of themes including change, family values, war and peace, and love. “Habibi” is the Arabic for ‘beloved’.


“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, / you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”

Naomi says a visit to her grandmother in the West Bank village of Sinjil was a life-changing experience.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt weakened in a broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before your learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
Like a shadow or a friend.

© Naomi Shahib Nye from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

You can listen to Naomi’s interview with Krista Tippet – including some background on this particular poem – HERE.


This year Naomi was named The Young People’s Poet Laureate, the first Arab-American to hold the position. The award is from the Poetry Foundation, among other things the publisher of Poetry. This is a $25,000 prize that celebrates a living writer in recognition of their devotion to writing exceptional poetry for young readers. The two-year-term laureateship promotes poetry to children and their families, teachers, and librarians.

Naomi Shihab Nye will serve from 2019 to 2021, aiming to bring poetry to geographically underserved, or rural communities through readings underwritten by the Poetry Foundation. In addition, every month during her tenure, which begins in August, she will recommend a new poetry book for young readers.

Nye is acclaimed as a children’s writer for her sensitivity and cultural awareness, such as in her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, published just after September 11, 2001, which invites readers to reflect and explore life as an Arab-American. Also acclaimed for her work for adults, Nye’s writing moves seamlessly between ages in a way that is accessible, warm, and sophisticated even for the youngest of readers. Her poetry collections for young adults include Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners and A Maze Me: Poems for Girls.

Naomi Nye is currently a professor of creative writing at Texas State University. She joins notable past winners of this award including Jack Prelutsky, Jacqueline Woodson, and most recently Margarita Engle.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll like have to link through to the site to enjoy the delights of this video reading by Naomi of her poem, “When did you stop being a poet?”

This is charming and serves to remind us of how good we are at poetry when we are spontaneous and open to fancy, when we don’t try to write and edit at the same time. It reminds us too that like children, poets never stop being surprised by life. I love that Naomi’s little boy said, “Just think, no one has ever seen inside this peanut before.” Such is the wonder of childlike sensibility and vision.

Naomi’s Amazon Page U.S. is HERE.
Naomi’s Amazon Page U.K. is HERE.

This post compiled courtesy of Naomi Shihab Nye (which is not to imply I got permission – I hope sharing her work here falls under Fair Use), Wikipedia, Amazon, and Poetry Foundation.


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
“Over His Morning Coffee,” Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



 

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (#35): Joan Leotta, playing with words on page

“Now each square’s

a pathway back to childhood”


Quilt

Sitting on my couch,

I snuggle under a quilt

made from Grandma’s coats.

Each square’s cut from a day

we went out together

to shop, to lunch, or church.

I would lean against her

in car, streetcar or taxi

when I was weary of it all.

Grandma would hug me,

pull me close— my cheek

against each season’s coat,

comforting me.

Now each square’s

a pathway back to childhood

when my cheek

on grandma’s coat

could quiet the discord of a

too busy world.

© Joan Leotta

Quilt was fist published by the North Carolina Silver Arts Group where it won the state’s Bronze Medal for Poetry in 2017

Pie by Another Name

A few over-ripe

peaches in the fruit bin

beg to be sliced

into the succor

of a single crust

laid onto a flat pan.

Then, from the bowl

where I dusted slices

with cornstarch,

brown sugar,

I lay the peaches

on the crust and

overlay all with pats

of sweet butter.

My baker-trained fingers

seek to shape all into

pie formation,

but I’m left with a

flat pastry whose

edges I twist to hold

in peachy goodness, then

bake, this oddly-shaped

concoction.

Leftover baked peaches in

misshapen dough—

much better

when called,

galette.

© Joan Leotta

Illustration “Starting a New Quilt” courtesy of Anna under CC BY 2.0 license

JOAN LEOTTA  (What Editors Want You to Know, Joan Leotta’s Encouraging Words through pen and performance-interviews with Editors) has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood. She performs regularly for children and adults and writes for both audiences as well–poetry, essays, short fiction, novels, picture books, and magazine and newspaper articles. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Silver Birch, Postcard Poems and Prose, The Ekphrastic Review and Creative Inspirations. She delights in finding beauty in the ordinary
and in imagining the story behind a work of art. When not at computer or on stage, you can find her with family, walking the beach, or in the kitchen.
Author, Story Performer
“Encouraging words through Pen and Performance”
Giulia Goes to War, Letters from Korea, A Bowl of Rice, Secrets of the Heart historical fiction in Legacy of Honor Series; Simply a Smile--collection of Short Stories; WHOOSH! Picture book from THEAQ; Download a mini-chapbook of Joan’s poems HERE. Connect with Joan on Facebook HERE. Joan’s Amazon Page HERE.

ABOUT

 

 

Celebrating Poet & Writer Emily Brontë on the 200th Anniversary of Her Birth

The identity of this picture is disputed; sources disagree on whether this image is of Emily or of her sister Anne. Public Domain.

“She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman… impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned.” Constantin Héger, teacher of Charlotte and Emily during their stay in Brussels, on a daguerreotype dated c. 1865



All Hushed and Still Within the House

All hushed and still within the house;
⁠Without, all wind and driving rain;
But something whispers to my mind,
⁠Wrought up in rain and wailing wind:
Never again? Why not again? Never again;
⁠Memory has power as well as wind.

But the hearts that once adored me
⁠Have long forgot their vow;
And the friends that mustered round me,
⁠Have all forsaken now.

‘Twas in a dream revealed to me,
⁠But not a dream of sleep;
A dream of watchful agony,
⁠Of guilt that would not weep.

excerpt from The Complete Poems of Emily Brontë edited by C.W. Hatfield, forward by Irene Taylor


ABOUT

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.

Whitney Greenaway: A Poet’s Take on Letting Go; Poetry/Writing Contests; Resource on poetry contests with June deadlines

“Come sleep with me: We won’t make Love, Love will make us.” Julio Cortázar



The Cortázar quote is apropos of nothing except that I like his work and thought of that line (so fabulous!) after hearing this last evening on a PBS Brief But Spectacular Take on letting go by the new-to-me poet, Whitney Greenway. Sometimes the mind takes a strange turn on things. I’m getting old.  Anyway … THIS is the only piece of information I found online about her.  I’ll let her piece speak for itself except to say that I like it but have to add that sometimes we women disappoint men as well. The transcript is HERE.


HEADS-UP:

  • This is last-minute but it might work for you if you’re interested and you have something ready to submit: Boston Review’s Annual Poetry Contest closes tonight.  You can submit online or via snail mail, which must be postmarked June 1.  $20 entry fee. $1,500 cash award and publication in Boston Review. Details HERE.
  • THE MASTERS REVIEW, A Platform for Emerging Writers offers a list of fourteen literary magazines and contests with June deadlines HERE.
  • And in from Poet, Editor and Founder of Diaphanous e-Journal, Krysia Jopek“A mix of news / update: instead of a full-length journal of Diaphanous as in 2017, we are shifting gears to “diaphanous micro”: an e-journal of literary and visual art. Each micro issue will feature the work of one artist, often in more than one genre. Stay tuned! diaphanous 2.1 should be launched within the next two weeks! Thank you for all of those involved. It’s been lovely to collaborate with some of the writers and visual artists to be featured. There will be an interview with the artist included in each issue after their poetry, micro/flash fiction, art; links to all their books and some commentary about the work included. The first artist/writer to be featured is J Karl Bogartte; second, Francine Witte.”  Diaphanous Press facebook page and website.
  • From Kallisto Gaia Press team member, writer/journalist Tony Burnett: “Let’s get busy writing. Two new Summer Writing Contests Antonio Ruiz-Camacho judges in Fiction. Carrie Fountain judges in Poetry. $1500.00 in prizes!”

RELATED:

Caveat Emptor: Please be sure to verify information for yourself before submitting work, buying products, paying fees or attending events et al.


ABOUT THE POET BY DAY