Sunday, April 15, 2007


Woke up this morning to my wife reminding me not to miss New Letters (a radio program produced locally and aired at 6am Sundays on our local NPR affiliate, KCUR FM) This weeks program was an interview with Naomi Shihab Nye that was taped last year when she was in Kansas City. Missourians have a bit of a claim on Nye as she was born in St. Louis. (an insignificant fact to my post, but my over functioning self will take over on occasion).

I think it was maybe three, perhaps four years ago that I first was introduced to her when she spoke was a featured speaker at a writers conference here in town. Even aside from her poetry, she is a dynamic personality. I believe her to be an individual who truly breathes the experience of poetry and this I contend makes it hard if not impossible to separate the person from the poet.

If I were looking for a diplomatic representative to a foreign country, any country, Naomi Shihab Nye would possess the necessary temperament to break through the toughest of barriers and actually be able to achieve meaningful dialogue.

What I like about Ney is her understanding of the total range of human emotion. She is not oblivious to pain and suffering but she always seems to be looking for a way past it. With her ancestral connection to the Middle East, this is a remarkable feat. The lines from here 1994 poem Jerusalem are a testament to this... "I'm not interested in / who suffered the most. / I'm interested in / people getting over it."

In reading an interview with Nye in Pedestal I caught the following line which reaffirms my belief that she indeed lives day-to-day in a poetry realm: "Balance is more important than anything. I am sure I lose my balance every day. Poetry—reading it, usually—is what helps us find it again." Could it be that this is the true value to each of us in National Poetry Month? A time for us to center ourselves, to find balance in life?
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