Special thank you to our aquatically inclined friend Badfish over at Badfish Out of Water for bringing this beautiful poet to my attention!
Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her BA in English and world religions from Trinity University.
Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011); You and Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award; 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (Greenwillow Books, 2002), a collection of new and selected poems about the Middle East; Fuel (BOA Editions, 1998); Red Suitcase (BOA Editions, 1994); and Hugging the Jukebox (Far Corner Books, 1982).
She is also 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.
Nye gives voice to her experience as an Arab-American through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. About her work, the poet William Stafford has said, “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.” (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/naomi-shihab-nye)
I LOVED the fancifulness of this poem. Ms. Nye writes a lot about nature and animals and children. I found this so charming because of the skunks. 😀
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A Valentine for Ernest Mann
You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.
Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.
Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he reinvented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of the skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.
Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.
–Naomi Shihab Nye
© Naomi Shihab Nye. Used for educational or therapeutic purposes.
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I happened to find this poem on a site call The Center for Journal Therapy. This prompt accompanied the poem. Thought I’d stick it on here just for the heck of it as I intend to explore their site.
Write about an unusual gift you’ve given, or received.
Write about a time you reinvented something your life gave you.
Where do your poems hide?
Compliments of the Center for Journal Therapy, http://www.journaltherapy.com