Award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye has brought together a collection of her poems about the Middle East, shedding powerful, tender light on a region filled with rich history and much turmoil. Nye, who is of Middle Eastern descent herself, speaks from the heart, capturing an entire culture in strong images -- especially in "Biography of an Armenian Schoolgirl," "Rock," and the poem that gives the anthology its title. Both remarkable and enlightening, this collection of poetry will help foster understanding in young and old alike for an area of the world most of us know only through nightly news broadcasts.
19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle Eastby Naomi Shihab Nye
"Tell me how to live so many lives at once ..."
Fowzi, who beats everyone at dominoes; Ibtisam, who wanted to be a doctor; Abu Mahmoud, who knows every eggplant and peach in his West Bank garden; mysterious Uncle Mohammed, who moved to the mountain; a girl in a red sweater dangling a book bag; children in velvet dresses who haunt the candy bowl at the/b>
"Tell me how to live so many lives at once ..."
Fowzi, who beats everyone at dominoes; Ibtisam, who wanted to be a doctor; Abu Mahmoud, who knows every eggplant and peach in his West Bank garden; mysterious Uncle Mohammed, who moved to the mountain; a girl in a red sweater dangling a book bag; children in velvet dresses who haunt the candy bowl at the party; Baba Kamalyari, age 71; Mr. Dajani and his swans; Sitti Khadra, who never lost her peace inside.
Maybe they have something to tell us.
Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about being Arab-American, about Jerusalem, about the West Bank, about family all her life. These new and collected poems of the Middle East sixty in all appear together here for the first time.
Read an Excerpt
A man letters the sign for his grocery in Arabic and English.
Paint dried more quickly in English.
The thick swoops and curls of Arabic letters stay moist
and glistening til tomorrow when the children show up
jingling their dimes.
They have learned the currency of the New World,
carrying wishes for gum and candies shaped like fish.
They float through the streets, diving deep to the bottom,
nosing rich layers of crusted shell.
One of these children will tell a story that keeps her people
alive. We don't know yet which one she is.
Girl in the red sweater dangling a book bag,
sister with eyes pinned to the barrel of pumpkin seeds.
They are lettering the sidewalk with their steps.
They are separate and together and a little bit late.
Carrying a creased note, "Don't forget."
Who wrote it? They've already forgotten.
A purple fish sticks to the back of the throat.
Their long laughs are boats they will ride and ride,
making the shadows that cross each other's smiles.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Meet the Author
Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and anthologist and the acclaimed author of Habibi: A Novel and Sitti's Secrets, a picture book, which was based on her own experiences visiting her beloved Sitti in Palestine. Her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has taught writing and worked in schools all over the world, including in Muscat, Oman. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
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The Poetry of Nye: 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East I loved this book of poems. It read like a very reflective piece of work and though it is many poems combined in one book, it could have easily been one long poem of glimpses of the Middle East. I believe that Nye’s point here is for us to see pictures of everyday people trying to live “normal” lives amidst a constant threat of war. Nye shows objects and rituals close to these people’s hearts—things that connect them to their land and to their identity: a “sprig of mint” in their tea, olives, grapes, figs, goat cheese, and fabrics that they love. These things are particular to their culture, but in other ways, these people are just like the rest of us: just ordinary people trying to love their families and raise their children. It is sooo sad that here in America, we see the extreme fundamentalist when we picture an Arab person in our head; it would be good for us to see the normal, everyday Arab human, trying to live his/her life and trying to love his/her family and his/her land.
This was the first book of Nye's poetry I read, but it won't be my last. Her poetry gives us insights to another side of the challanges of the Middle East conflicts. She is a woman who has ties to both the Middle East 'through her refugee father' and America 'through her mother' and this gives her the ability to feel for both. I highly recommend her poetry.