I am joining Poetry Friday this week with two poems taken from Naomi Shihab Nye’s 19 Varieties of Gazelle, as they fit our current theme that includes Middle Eastern literature. Big thanks to Matt Forrest Esenwine of Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for hosting Poetry Friday this week. Head over to his page to read more poetry!
While researching for titles for our theme, I was happy to come across 19 Varieties of Gazelle, a collection of 60 poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. In her Introduction, Naomi Shihab Nye talked about the Middle East and the lives of her people in America.
“All my life I thought about the Middle East, wrote about it, wondered about it, lived in it, visited it, worried about it, loved it. We are blessed and doomed at the same time…
“It always felt good to be rooted and connected, but there were those deeply sorrowful headlines in the background to carry around like sad weights: the brutal occupation of Palestine, the war in Lebanon, the tragedies in Syria, the oppression of women in too many places (my father used to say when I was a teenager, “Do you realize how lucky you are?” and of course I didn’t), acts of terrorism, both against Arabs and by Arabs, the rise of fundamentalism, violence in Egypt, upsets and upheavals, and later the Gulf War… a series of endless troubles…
“Perhaps Arab Americans must say, twice as clearly as anyone else, that we deplore the unbelievable, senseless, sorrow caused by people from the Middle East. The losses cannot be measured. They will reverberate in so many lives throughout the coming years.
But also we must remind others never to forget the innocent citizens of the Middle East who haven’t committed any crime. The people who are living solid, considerate lives, often in difficult conditions — especially the children, who struggle to maintain their beautiful hope…”
Below are excerpts from a poem entitled, “Flinn, On the Bus,” which was also included in Naomi Shihab Nye’s Introduction. Photo courtesy of NASA, edited through an online app.
Also in her Introduction, Naomi Shihab Nye talks about the power of poetry.
“I kept thinking, as did millions of other people, what can we do? Writers, believers in words, could not give up words when the going got rough. I found myself, as millions did, turning to poetry. But many of us have always turned to poetry. Why should it be any surprise that people find solace in the most intimate literary genre? Poetry slows us down, cherishes small details. A large disaster erases those details. We need poetry for nourishment and for noticing, for the way language and imagery reach comfortably into experience, holding and connecting it more successfully than any news channel we could name.”