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I wasn't planning on participating this week. It's the last week of school, and it's been a doozy. But then when I went to Mary Lee's blog, I discovered that this week is a tribute to Naomi Shihab Nye. And Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite poets. A million years ago, ok, actually in the early 1990's, I was in San Antonio for the International Reading Association's annual conference. My friend, Lisa, who is a poet and actually did her dissertation the role of poetry in the elementary classroom, saw a sign for a poetry reading and wanted to go. I tagged along with her.
And as you can probably guess, the poet who was reading was Naomi Shihab Nye. She read in a little tiny bookstore close to the Riverwalk. Probably twenty or so people attended the reading. Her son played with trucks on the floor in the back of the room. I fell in love with Naomi's work that night and have loved it ever since. Here are the last two stanzas of a poem I love. You can read the whole thing here.
"Different Ways to Pray"
...There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.
And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
and was famous for his laugh.
Naomi Shihab Nye
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Carol, what a special and wonderful experience that people today would pay a lot of money for. What a treasure. I love the detail about her son playing with trucks on the floor. And this poem. It is sacred in its way. I love the description of men and women and their earnest passion for what prayer brings. Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you for this wonderful glimpse! Have a relaxing (?) summer!
Hoping today is a better end to the crazy week, Carol! "the old man Fowzi" is one I'd love to meet, along with Naomi Nye, of course. What a treasure of a memory you have. I'm glad you posted!
I would like to write a poem after this one. I have some of my own thoughts on different ways to pray.
I'm really glad you found time to post! This is beautiful!
I'm so glad you found a bit of time to share this poem, Carol. Thank you!
I was introduced to Naomi Shihab Nye at an author celebration here in Vancouver BC many years ago and have been a fan ever since. Nothing is quite as profound as being in the same space as an author like her reading her work. She read Gate A-4.
Many things to appreciate in your post, Carol...that you made it even though you had a doozy of a week, that your friend did her dissertation on poetry in the classroom, that you happened about NSN (and her son), and this poem. Thanks for sharing all!
I'd love to hear Naomi Shihab Nye's backstory to "the old man Fowzi," if there is one. Thanks for sharing this layered and moving poem Carol, and your interesting story about hearing her in that intimate setting.
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