Red Suitcase


Poet, teacher, essayist, anthologist, songwriter and singer, Naomi Shihab Nye is one of the country's most acclaimed writers. Her voice is generous; her vision true; her subjects ordinary people, and ordinary situations which, when rendered through her language, become remarkable. In this, her fourth full collection of poetry, we see with new eyes-a grandmother's scarf, an ...
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Red Suitcase

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Poet, teacher, essayist, anthologist, songwriter and singer, Naomi Shihab Nye is one of the country's most acclaimed writers. Her voice is generous; her vision true; her subjects ordinary people, and ordinary situations which, when rendered through her language, become remarkable. In this, her fourth full collection of poetry, we see with new eyes-a grandmother's scarf, an alarm clock, a man carrying his son on his shoulders.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter and say, "I’ll take two"
and expect it to handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like you spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here’s my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Here Nye's (Yellow Glove) poems travel from American attics to the rutted roads of Palestine. Most focus on details of daily life; throughout, the narrator maintains an obsession with letters, the only object able to journey safely between discrete worlds. Some letters, like that in ``Sincerely,'' arrive humbly, ``having lost faith of finding/ either name written on it.'' The more passionate letters in ``Saved'' are burnt before a lover and turn to ash. Other poems explore memory; ``Lullaby for Regret'' does full justice to the ``thin sliver/ that needles my wake.'' Nye writes quietly. Her cool distance is her best talent, for when she approaches charged topics like conflict and death, she tends to offer unsatisfying metaphors and puny images. Her discourse on war, ``For the 500th Dead Palestinian, Ibtisam Bozieh,'' rings hollow, from title to conclusion. ``Shoulders,'' the final poem, strains to carry both a child and the book on its back, and its invocation to children as ``the world's most sensitive cargo'' is rote. Nye's strength is her ability to express subtle emotions; weightier issues overwhelm her small, clear voice. (Oct.)
Another lovely collection by this poet who was not only mentored by the late William Stafford, but shows always a similar humility, and receives similarly the affection of legions of students and readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781880238158
  • Publisher: BOA Editions, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 11/1/1994
  • Series: American Poets Continuum Series
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 90
  • Sales rank: 1,471,355
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Naomi Shihab Nye, poet, essayist, anthologist, has been a recipient of writing fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Witter Bynner Foundation/Library of Congress. Author of more than twenty volumes, her recent books include Mint Snowball and 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East which was selected as a National Book Award finalist in 2002. Her books of poems include Fuel (BOA Editions) and Red Suitcase (BOA). Nye's work has been featured on the PBS poetry specials NOW with Bill Moyers , The Language of Life with Bill Moyers and The United States of Poetry . She has read her work on National Public Radio's Prairie Home Companion. Poetry editor for The Texas Observer, Nye has worked for as a visiting writer in schools at all educational levels. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
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Table of Contents

Travel Alarm 11
From Here to There 17
The Attic and its Nails 18
Arabic 19
Jerusalem 21
Holy Land 23
Words When We Need Them 25
How Palestinians Keep Warm 26
Late 27
Voices 28
White Hair Over the Rocky Mountains 29
Almost, Never 31
Texas, The First Time 33
What She Was Doing at Home 34
Swimmer, Blessed Sea 35
His Secret 37
The Man Whose Voice Has Been Taken From His Throat 38
Someone Is Standing On the Roof of the World 39
My Grandmother in the Stars 41
Living Where We Do 45
In That Time 48
Any Number 50
Sincerely 51
Breaking the Fast 55
Violin 57
Yeast 58
Continual Usage 59
Escape 60
Sparrow Bones 61
Tongue-Tied 62
The Crossed-Out Word 63
Living with Mistakes 64
Niagara 65
In the Public Schools 67
Problems with the Story 68
Valentine for Ernest Mann 70
Fireflies 71
What Is Supposed To Happen 72
What Brings Us Out 75
Lucia, Your Voice 77
What Happened in Madisonville 78
First Hawaiian Bank 80
"If God Won't Take Me, Why Won't the Devil?" 81
Salt 82
The Silence of Hutchinson, Kansas: A Letter from Texas 84
Saved 86
Lullaby For Regret 87
NextTime 89
Love Letter, Hate Letter 90
Brushing Lives 91
Morning Paper, Society Page 93
Even at War 94
The Grieving Ring 95
For the 500th Dead Palestinian, Ibtisam Bozieh 97
Those Whom We Do Not Know 99
Inside the Riddle 102
Shoulders 103
Acknowledgements and Dedications 105
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