LITERATURE • Naomi Shihab Nye

Her poetry finds meaning in the “gleam of particulars.”

THERE IS A THAI SAYING: Life is so short, we must move very slowly,” says poet Naomi Shihab Nye from her sunlit study in San Antonio’s King William Historic District. “Being busy has become our calling card, our sign of success, our obsession—but poetry doesn’t want us to be busy. When you live in a rapidly moving swirl, you can only view your surroundings with a glance. Poetry requires us to slow down, to take time to pause.”

It is an ironic observation coming from Nye, who is currently one of Texas’ busiest writers. Ever since her first collection of poetry, Different Ways to Pray, was published in 1980, the 46-year-old Palestinian American has assumed many roles—essayist, novelist, anthologist, and educator—all the while producing a body of work that is as diverse as it is consistently astonishing. Her best writing, however, has been her most recent, and in the past year alone she has produced a staggering amount of it: a collection of poetry; her first novel for young adults, Habib; an edited anthology of Middle Eastern verse; a children’s book; and the preface to a forthcoming collection of poetry by her mentor, the late William Stafford. Along the way she has garnered critical acclaim, several book awards for Habibi, and last fall, a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship. But

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...