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Multi-Award Winning Poet Returns to Home State to Give Reading


Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar will host a poetry reading by a critically acclaimed Missouri-native poet. KSMU’s Julie Greene spoke with the poet and has the details.

Naomi Shihab Nye is considered one of the most prominent female poets of the American Southwest. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, Nye grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem and San Antonio. She began writing poetry at age six and hasn’t stopped since. Today, her poetry is celebrated for its sense of connectivity by casting a new light on everyday events, people and objects.

“With poems, you have this sense of looking at the human landscape, the world and just trying to get below the surface.  I think poems often help us put pieces together. Even if we can’t solve things, they shine a light on them, and I think that’s a big thing, to have a little more light shining, even on a mystery, is important,” she said.

Nye has written and edited more than 30 books, including two books from the Middle East. Her multi-award winning work has been featured on PBS’s The Language of Life with Bill Moyer and The United States of Poetry, as well as NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac.

One of Nye’s more well-known poems from her newest book, Transfer, is called “Ringing,” which details the aftermath of her father’s death:


I’m sorry you lost your father, people say,
and I step outside to soak
in stripes of gray cloud.
Hand touches iron rail.
You needed it, I don't.

Blood circulating under skin
and time, that blurred sky shifting.
Air holds everyone visible or not.
Slice lemon you crave by your teacup.
Strange affection for chipped ice.

Maybe the right wind brings
a scent of smoldering twigs,
fresh water over stone.
Maybe tonight your laughter
carpets our rooms.
I keep finding you in ways you didn't know
I noticed, or knew.

Every road, every sea,
every beach by every sea,
keeps lining up with what you loved--
Here's a line of silent palm trees.
It's as if you answered the phone.


Nye will be reading some of her poetry at Southwest Baptist University's Davis Newport Theatre in Bolivar at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 26.

For KSMU News, I'm Julie Greene.