I am glad to be joining the Poetry Friday community this week. Today is extra special as we have just recently launched our reading theme this July-August: Nomads, Homes, and Habitats: Restlessness and Refuge in Literature. Thank you to Katie Of the Logonauts for hosting this week.
I thought this was particularly apt as I still have another month to go here in Europe for my international fellowship at the International Youth Library in Munich before I return home to my loved ones in Singapore. And so I invite you to travel along with us in the next two months as we explore our reading theme – and what beautiful way to begin this journey than with Naomi Shihab Nye’s winged words.
Come With Me: Poems For A Journey
Poetry by: Naomi Shihab Nye Illustrations by: Dan Yaccarino
Published by: Greenwillow Books, 2000. ISBN: 068815946X (ISBN13: 9780688159467). Personal copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
I bought this book while I was in San Diego with my family in 2014 – it was a bit more expensive than the other discounted books I found in Book Off – but it was a Naomi Shihab Nye and I knew that it was still a steal. Add the fact that most of Nye’s books are poetry anthologies selected or compiled by her, but not written by her – so I always jump at every opportunity to grab copies of books that have her original works.
There are sixteen poems in this collection – and each one speaks about journeys in varied forms. There is the inward journeying to the self as seen in Spinning (one of my favourites), or the metaphorical pilgrimage of a word from the moment it is spoken until it reaches the consciousness of another as seen in Courage. There are also journeys that take place only in one’s mind as one feels displaced in temporary anger and travels to the moon, away from Mother, who eventually sends up “a silver thread/for me to slide down on.”
I found myself reading aloud most of the poems to my 14 year old daughter, as there is something so specific about Nye’s imagery that render it universal somehow. I particularly loved the homecoming of Tio Pete who was welcomed “with a hundred happy arms.” As I look forward to my own homecoming, this one tugged a little bit at my heartstrings. See below:
I believe this would make an excellent mentor text in terms of providing character sketches or profiles of people whom we love through poetry. The last five lines spoke volumes of what Tio Pete means to the narrator:
He sat in a chair
My other favourite, though, has to do with the relative passing of time and the universe that moves within us, keeping us still. The complexity of this imagery is fully captured in this fragment of the poem Spinning:
Dan Yaccarino’s art here is also one of his best, I believe. It fully captures the shades of tattered exhaustion, the quilted feeling of displacement, and the mish-mash assortment of emotions through his collage mixed-media art.
Another poem that moved me deeply was Secrets with all the compartments of memories tucked away in some safe place in one’s “glittering suitcase/ filled with tiny/ unspoken tales.”