Sunday, March 12, 2017

Naomi Shihab Nye

It's the birthday of the American poet Naomi Shihab Nye who was born in St. Louis, Missouri March 12, 1952. Nye split her childhood between Ferguson, Missouri, and Jerusalem, the daughter of an American and a Pakistani refugee. Her blended heritage and Middle Eastern roots soon became the subject of many poems, along with the conflict of place. Naomi Shihab Nye is considered one of the leading female poets of the American Southwest, a songwriter and novelist. Although Nye regards herself as a "wandering poet" she refers to San Antonio as her home. 
I had the pleasure several years ago to hear her speak at a poetry reading and writer's workshop in Brainerd, MN at the community college through a program called Verse Like Water.  Nye is a poet, author and songwriter whose work I have long admired. I was even more dazzled with her stage presence. Nye captured the audience's attention with her earnestness, self-deprecating humor and writing wisdom as she shared personal stories, experiences and favorite poems with the group.

Nye’s literary work reflects her travels and her experiences in a family of mixed religion and culture. She explores diversity in all of her poetry and fiction, weaving in personal stories against the background of cultural confrontation. After the World Trade Center attack in 2001, she became an active voice for Arab-Americans speaking out against both terrorism and prejudice.

She says a visit to her grandmother in the village of Sinjil was a life-changing experience. She was the recipient of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature. Nye gives voice to her experience as an Arab-American through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. She is the author of several books of poetry and fiction for children, including Habibi (Simon Pulse, 1997), for which she received the Jane Addams Children’s Book award in 1998, several short stories, edited three anthologies and authored numerous books of poems for adults.

Nye's poem Gate A-4 was recently posted on the Internet. Truly it is a heartwarming RAK story she crafted into a poem.

1 comment:

  1. You meet the most interesting writers. I am always impressed by the strong writing presence in northern Minnesota.