Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye

In Naomi Shihab Nye's first volume of poems, Different Ways to Pray (Breitenbush Books, 1980), she writes, "My grandfather told me I had a choice./Up or down, he said. Up or down./He never mentioned east or west." A compiling of life's choices, and the decision to fulfill them all, comprise a sort of ars poetica for Nye. This restless strain, seeking to encompass more than the poet sees around her, runs through Nye's words and those of her speakers, across continents and generations. She calls herself a "wandering poet," and, growing up in St. Louis, Jerusalem and San Antonio, she has spread her own roots wide. Nye writes with a deep affection for people and places, while always remaining conscious of the social, spatial, and personal rifts that tear us apart, and keeping an eye toward the volcano in whose shadow we all live, telling it soothingly, "We would be happy if you slept forever." William Stafford has said that Nye's poems "combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight," while the The Grand Rapids Press adds, "When she exhales, the world becomes different. Better."

Naomi Shihab Nye says the primary source of her poetry has always been "local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks." Since 1980, she has put her hand to more than twenty books, including poetry, anthology, novels and children's literature. Her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (Greenwillow Press, 2002) was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her work has afforded her many further honors including the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Guggenheim and Lannan Fellowships, appearances on PBS' NOW with Bill Moyers and poetry specials, and feature in National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer's Almanac. Nye continues to reach ever younger and broader audiences with such collections as The Tree is Older than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico (Simon & Schuster, 1998), and A Maze Me: Poems for Girls (Greenwillow Press, 2005). She currently lives in San Antonio with her family.



Poems by
Naomi Shihab Nye

Muchas Gracias Por Todo


For Mohammed Zeid of Gaza, Age 15


Cross that Line
(Available as a broadside.)













Poetry Center Reading:

Fall 2004