Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab
Nye
1952

American Poet, Songwriter and Novelist

Author Quotes

A boy told me if he roller-skated fast enough his loneliness couldn't catch up to him, the best reason I ever heard for trying to be a champion. What I wonder tonight pedaling hard down King William Street is if it translates to bicycles. A victory! To leave your loneliness panting behind you on some street corner while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas, pink petals that have never felt loneliness, no matter how slowly they fell.

Before You Know What Kindness Really Is: 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.

I do think that all of us think in poems.

I want to be famous the in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.

Kindness: 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 everywhere like a shadow or a friend.

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 everywhere like a shadow or a friend.

Sometimes there?s no one to listen to what you really might like to say at a certain moment. The paper always listens.

Today you will say things you can predict and other things you could never imagine this minute. Don't reject them, let them come through when they're ready, don't think you can plan it al out. This day will never, no matter how long you live, happen again. It is exquisitely singular. It will never again be exactly repeated.

You know, those of us who leave our homes in the morning and expect to find them there when we go back - it's hard for us to understand what the experience of a refugee might be like.

A poem is a cup of words open to the sky and wind in a bucket.

Being alive is a common road. It's what we notice makes us different.

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.

I want to be someone making music with my coming.

Later our dreams begin catching fire around the edges, they burn like paper, we wake with our hands full of ash.

Or maybe his reclusiveness was a decisive marketing strategy-if you disappear, people are more interested in your work. You become a legend while you're still alive. Crouching behind a stonewall, or the post under a house...people are kneeling down to find you.

Teaching and writing are separate, but serve/feed one another in so many ways. Writing travels the road inward, teaching, the road out - helping OTHERS move inward - it is an honor to be with others in the spirit of writing and encouragement.

We all find ourselves involved in projects or activities that confound us-when or why did I say I would do this? What was I thinking? I needed a poem for myself that said-pause longer. Think again.

You will never catch up. Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble at any second. Then decide what to do with your time.

A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands, my father would say. And he?d prove it, cupping the buzzer instantly while the host with the swatter stared. In the spring our palms peeled like snakes. True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways. I changed these to fit the occasion. Years before, a girl knocked, wanted to see the Arab. I said we didn?t have one. After that, my father told me who he was, Shihab?shooting star? a good name, borrowed from the sky. Once I said, When we die, we give it back? He said that?s what a true Arab would say.

Being good felt like a heavy coat, so I took it off.

I grew up in St. Louis in a tiny house full of large music - Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson singing majestically on the stereo, my German-American mother fingering 'The Lost Chord' on the piano as golden light sank through trees, my Palestinian father trilling in Arabic in the shower each dawn.

I was a fool, and I will always be a fool, and there will never, never, be a last day of school.

Let me peer out at the world through your lens. (Maybe I'll shudder, or gasp, or tilt my head in a question.) Let me see how your blue is my turquoise and my orange is your gold. Suddenly binary stars, we have startling gravity. Let's compare scintillation - let's share starlight.

Our limbs which had already traveled far beyond her world, carrying the click of distances in the smooth, untroubled soles of their shoes.

The days are nouns: touch them. The hands are churches that worship the world.

First Name
Naomi Shihab
Last Name
Nye
Birth Date
1952
Bio

American Poet, Songwriter and Novelist