Naomi Shihab Nye

Feeling Broken

"I do think that all of us think in poems. I think of a poem as being deeper than headline news. You know how they talk about breaking news all the time, that — if too much breaking news, trying to absorb all the breaking news, you start feeling really broken. And you need something that takes you to a place that’s a little more timeless, that kind of gives you a place to stand to look out at all these things. Otherwise, you just feel assaulted by all of the tragedy in the world."

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from "Telling a Story Helped Us Figure Out Who We Were," PBS NewsHour: Art Beat, Nov. 18, 2003

Austin Kleon, Blackout Poems

Open Road by Austin Kleon

Happiness Floats

Dublin Recreation Center, March 12, 2012

So Much Happiness
by Naomi Shihab Nye, from Words under the Words

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against, 
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

People Talk Themselves Out of Responding

"I can never imagine how someone would fall in love with poetry and stop reading poems. But I think that people often talk themselves out of a bit of responding, which is just as important as collecting."

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from the 2010 Poets Forum

The Sky
by William Stafford

I like it with nothing. Is it
what I was? What I will be?
I look out there by the hour,
so clear, so sure. I could
smile, or frown—still nothing.

Be my father, be my mother,
great sleep of blue; reach
far within me; open doors,
find whatever is hiding; invite it
for many clear days in the sun.

When I turn away I know
you are there. We won't forget
each other: every look is a promise.
Others can't tell what you say
when it's the blue voice, when
you come to the window and look for me.

Your word arches over
the roof all day. I know it
within my bowed head where
the other sky listens.
You will bring me
everything when the time comes.

Maybe We Try Too Hard

April 6, 2011

"Maybe we try too hard to be remembered, waking to the glowing yellow disc in ignorance, swearing that today will be the day, today we will make something of our lives. What if we are so busy searching for worth that we miss the sapphire sky and cackling blackbird. What else is missing? Maybe our steps are too straight and our paths too narrow and not overlapping. Maybe when they overlap someone in another country lights a candle, a couple resolves their argument, a young man puts down his silver gun and walks away."

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from Time You Let Me: 25 Poets Under 25

@WhiskeyRiver

Why Stop?

William Stafford quotes from On William Stafford: The Worth of Local Things:

“Poems don’t just happen. They are luckily or stealthily related to a readiness within ourselves. When we read or hear them, we react. We aren’t just supposed to react—any poem that asks for a dutiful response is masquerading as a poem, not being one. A good rule is—don’t respond unless you have to. But when you find you do have a response—trust it. It has a meaning.”

[When asked during an interview, “When did you first realize that you wanted to become a poet?”]

“My question is, ‘When did other people give up the idea of being a poet?’ You know, when we are kids we make up things, we write, and for me the puzzle is not that some people are still writing, the real question is why did other people stop?”

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir; instead, he engages in an activity that brings to him  a whole succession of unforeseen stories, poems, essays, plays, laws, philosophies, religions.”

 

Poetry Everywhere

Kindness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the
Indian in a white poncho lies dead
by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.