Friday, August 03, 2007

U.S. Poetry Map and Texas’s Naomi Shihab Nye

The Academy of American Poets has introduced a new feature on their already awesome Web site—it’s a poetry map of the U.S. with clickable links to each state featuring poetry info for each state. For my state, Texas, for example, you can locate “poetry-friendly” bookstores, poetry events, facts about the state poet laureate and other featured poets in the state, literary organizations and centers, writing programs and colonies, literary journals and small presses, and poems about Texas. I’m particularly pleased to see Naomi Shihab Nye featured there because she is completely fabulous in every way (have you ever heard her SPEAK?) and because she is one of the poets featured who also works with children and young people and has published collections for young readers, as well as for adults. Her work includes anthologies of Texas poetry, international poetry, poems by children, and her own work, of course, such as:

This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World (Four Winds Press, 1992)
The Tree is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico (Simon & Schuster, 1995)
The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings From the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, 1998) [adapted as The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East (Aladdin, 2002)]
What Have You Lost? (Greenwillow, 1999)
Is This Forever, or What? Poems and Paintings from Texas (Greenwillow, 2004)
Come With Me: Poems for a Journey (Greenwillow, 2000)
Nineteen Varieties of the Gazelle (Greenwillow, 2002)
Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets (Greenwillow, 2000)
A Maze Me (Greenwillow, 2005)

One of my very favorite poems about the topic of books and reading is hers from A Maze Me:

The List
by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man told me he had calculated
the exact number of books
he would be able to read before he died
by figuring the average number
of books he read per month
and his probable earth span,
(averaging how long
his dad and grandpa had lived,
adding on a few years since he
exercised more than they did).
Then he made a list of necessary books,
nonfiction mostly, history, philosophy,
fiction and poetry from different time periods
so there wouldn’t be large gaps in his mind.
He had given up frivolous reading entirely,
There are only so many days.

Oh I felt so sad to hear such an organized plan.
What about the books that aren’t written yet,
the books his friends might recommend
that aren’t on the list,
the yummy magazine that might fall
into his hand at a silly moment after all?
What about the mystery search
through delectable library shelves?
I felt the heartbeat of forgotten precious books
calling for his hand.

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 2005. A Maze Me; Poems for Girls. New York: Greenwillow, pp. 76-77.

In this collection, Nye’s powerful free verse poetry celebrates girls, particularly the dreams and worries that straddle childhood and adulthood. From topics as mundane as spotting a friend in the school cafeteria to as serious as coping with anger and argument, Nye challenges readers to “feel your thinking springing up and layering inside your huge mind.”

Picture credit:


Andromeda Jazmon said...

Wonderful! I love A Maze Me. She is so gifted!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for stopping by. Always glad to meet another fan of Naomi's. Not only is her work so powerful and moving, but she LIVES it, too.