Friday, February 19, 2010

Light and Flight from Naomi Shihab Nye

R. W. Scott "Birds in Flight" (Flamingos)

This post is especially for a ShAheen of Iqbal - high soaring is a little sampler of how even English, not as musical as Urdu, can give us light and flight with the right person shaping the word pictures...

The other late afternoon (my favorite time of the day) I noticed extra special light coming into the windows...but I was unable to describe the light to my daughter -only how the light affected the nearly translucent curtains which framed it. The light put all kinds of colors into the creases...along with earthy tones, pewter blues, fullmoon sea green and just a flicker of sunset tangerine.

There were other colors too in that timeless moment between wake and sleep...colors of too much bad news, colors of enough words without dance, colors of let's pretend there's no more war, colors to let fade away...

Simple props like windows, curtains and light make for the most unlimited dreams.

Just last night I ran across one of my favorite writers - Naomi Shihab Nye and the following sampler of her stories - Nye wrote: "Years ago a girl handed me a note as I was leaving her proud town of Albany, Texas, a tiny, lovely place far in the west of our big state."I'm glad to know there is another poemist in the world," the note said. "I always knew we would find one another someday and our lights would cross." Maybe someday pretty soon, I'll be able to wander once again into these corridors of light, corridors of soaring language and words of painterly beauty and light, teach me - new writers. I KNOW given your passion, heroes, heroines, teachers and determination - I will learn from you...

May our lights cross like falcons of beauty and truth in the skies above the seas between us...

Naomi Shihab Nye speaks a truth that wraps all around me.

From an interview with Bill Moyers

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: "If you place a fern under a stone, the next day it will be nearly invisible as if the stone has swallowed it. If you tuck the name of a loved one under your tongue too long, without speaking it it becomes blood, sigh, the little sucked in breath of air hiding everywhere beneath your words. No one sees the fuel that feeds you."

BILL MOYERS: "The fuel that feeds you." What is it?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I think for many of us it's language in the sense that language can carry us to understanding, and connect us to things that matter in our lives. For those of us who trust poetry and the power of linkage that poetry gives us. It's a way of--sitting quietly with words and--letting us--them lead us somewhere.

BILL MOYERS: So "the fuel that feeds you" is the power of words?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I think so. Those power of words, and a faith in the power of words. That words can give you something back if you trust them, and if you know that you're not trying to proclaim things all the time, but you're trying to discover things.

A little girl said to me, last year, "Poetry has been eating all my problems." And I said, "What do you mean by that?" And she said, "It just makes me feel better when I read it, or when I write it." And I think that's been true for many people in this country.

Let's let poetry eat all our problems. It's a strategy born out of hope. It can only succeed when we move past proclamation to discovery, curiosity, newness, metaphor. We must run into clear panes of glass more often in order to really see.

If the days are nouns, let's touch them. And perhaps, then, life really is a verb.

To Naomi Shihab Nye, my thanks for sitting quietly with words that resonate far beyond her life, right into the center of mine.

(I found that excerpt just above from that famous interview by Patti in 'Women Sit Quiet With Words' - Patti's beginning and ending lines.)
SAVE this until you find one long rainy day to really enjoy this following video to the's here especially for Akhtar Wasim Dar Sahib - this is a JEWEL of a talk. (Even with the funny photography that hides her animated face) Nye was just in January elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets for 2010. Besides other functions she serves most perfectly as an "ambassador of poetry in the world at large."

Naomi Shihab Nye speaks in Boston (notice how she's really a teacher at heart?
LECTURE on Language, Art and the Humanities

Nye has a long-awaited new book (another of her many anthologies) coming out in just a few weeks:

And now, let's end with comments about a fairly recent book of Nye's poems: "Color Me Amazed" By Bart King (Portland, Oregon) and I noticed there were more surprised words of praise from males and joy from older women than from young girls...

This book by the sublime Naomi Shihab Nye is subtitled "Poems for Girls," but I don't think that this charming book should be restricted to one gender. I certainly chuckled, oohed, and aahed a number of times as I read through it. (Still, it WOULD make a great gift for the young girl in your life.)

Shihab Nye has a generosity of spirit that shines through her poetry like a twinkle in a kindly aunt's eye. Here is a little somethin'-somethin' to whet your appetite (excerpted from "Ringing"):

"Now, when I hear an ice-cream truck chiming its bells, I fly
Even if I'm not hungry -- just to watch it pass.

Mailmen with their chime of dogs barking
up and down the street are magic too.

They are all bringers.
I want to be a bringer.

I want to drive a truck full of eggplants down the smallest street. I want to be someone making music with my coming."

OR perhaps when...the windows of the house are still open. One by one, in quiet corners, we will turn on a small light, read a poem, and feel our own soft wings spreading out... The Prisank mountain window


Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

Two glorious posts same day about poetry and Naomi Shihab Nye, what a gift. Have known very few people who have such distinguish ideas about what poetry is and what it can do. I Have read the complete post word by word for three times and each time found the delight and enjoyment superseding the previous reading. Thank you Connie for these splendid and most enthralling posts.

Connie L. Nash said...

Dear Friend,

How rich I am in your friendship and the way you understand the way language can dance and lift and be resonate enough to go so deep into the heart in an instant yet you feel that you have a new understanding for a lifetime. Even when English is your second language you, Akhtar Sahib, can do that so easily - a marvel to me!

The post as you can imagine came out of a day of needing immersion into another way of looking. Your comment added to the gladness of doing so and sending it out on the waters...

BE sure to go to that lecture sometime when you have generous space and quiet. NO hurry, just don't forget - Seldom have I sat so delighted to hear a writer talk before for so long. She can be funny too.

Thanx, friend, for your attention and heart...and the way you put your affirmations to me and others.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Komal Khan said...

I don't know how I missed this beautiful post earlier. Thanks for introducing me with Naomi Shihab Nye. How well she describes the connection we all have with each other through power of words specifically through poetry.

I felt rhythm while reading this post. And the first line of your post caught my attention “This post is especially for a ShAheen of Iqbal - high soaring bird...” after reading this line I just had a flight through this band of colours you spreaded by sharing Naomi Shihab Nye’s thoughts.

Thanks once again :)

Connie L. Nash said...

See Komal, see how right Akhtar Wasim Dar Sahib is about you!

YOU have a wonderful way with words...and remember other genres of writing can also use a poetic style as you have here:

"I felt rhythm while reading this post. And the first line of your post caught my attention “This post is especially for a ShAheen of Iqbal - high soaring bird...” after reading this line I just had a flight through this band of colours you spreaded by sharing Naomi Shihab Nye’s thoughts."

Komal, believe me, you, Thinking, ReeBz and others on the glorious "family of blogs" Republic of Rumi blogposts are WAY ahead of where I was back at your beginnings in young adulthood! I am thrilled by what I'm already seeing and know you will KEEP FLYING...

By the way...did you know that ReeBz just escaped a burning bus? And is having a birthday?

Anyway, thanx for stopping by and am SO glad you posted. And be sure sometime to listen/see that video mentioned as Lecture in Boston near end of the post, ok?

Be in the Peace,

Best Regards,

Komal Khan said...

Your words have always been a source of encouragement for me. Thank you so much for giving me this energy.

And yes I came to know about ReeBz from you only. I have wished her on her birthday and have just read her post regarding the escape from the burning bus. Thanks to Allah who saved her and all others.

By the way can I ask when is your Birthday?? :)

Connie L. Nash said...


Your words similarly give me encouragement and energy.

So glad you and ReeBz are getting to know one another...and SO glad she and the others have been prevented by angels and Allah and their own courage from today being missing from us...

Do keep posting and writing as I find your work quite remarkable in grace, honesty and intelligence. You will go far in a very short period of time!