Image by Rajah Bose / Flickr

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, as well as the author of several books of poetry and fiction for children. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. Her experience of difference has influenced much of her work, and she’s called herself a “wandering poet.”

Her poetry is known for looking at the ordinary, deeply and with fresh eyes. Poet William Stafford said of Shihab Nye, “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.”

Naomi Shihab 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.”

Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

~“Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Video: Naomi Shihab Nye reads and talks about her poem “Kindness”

Also, you might want to list to this really great interview with Naomi Shihab Nye on On Being, Your Life Is a Poem.

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