Naomi Nye Brings Poetry to King
by Eshani Chakrabarti on Friday, April 25th, 2014Last Wednesday, award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye recited an assortment of poems written by herself, her influences, and her inspirations, to students in King Theater as this spring’s Bingham Reader.
Ms. Baker, who assists in the selection of Bingham Readers — renowned writers who share their work and impart guidance on students both in assembly and in smaller creative writing classes–shared that a Milton alumna recommended Ms. Nye to speak to our community. This graduate brought the idea to Ms. Baker after winning the Smith College Poetry contest and subsequently meeting Ms. Nye, who was a judge in the competition.
Nye, raised in a Palestinian and American infused home, has lived in places across the world, including San Antonio and Jerusalem. Due to this worldly experience, Ms. Baker stated that, “Naomi Shihab Nye writes poems that connect us across cultures and remind us of our shared humanities.”
In the beginning of her presentation, Nye related to the students by explaining how she developed her writing at a young age by keeping a journal and reading Massachusetts authors Emily Dickinson and Jack Kerouac. Nye described her practice of keeping a journal as being very sporadic and simple. “Three lines a day adds up to 90 lines in a month. That’s a lot of material. You will be amazed at the threads you find and the connections you make.” Nye urged students to write whatever comes to mind, saying, “Sometimes our best poems—the ones that continue to talk to us—sneak up on us. They’re the ones that we weren’t looking for, that we weren’t anticipating.”
Nye shared a variety of poems that helped capture some of her thoughts and highlighted the ideas and influences behind her own poems. The topics of these poems and their resulting discussions ranged from the courage of the Boston community after the Boston Marathon Bombing to dialogues Nye had with her son, which she secretly recorded in a journal during her son’s youth without telling him until he was in high school. Towards the end of the assembly, as Nye recited one of these dialogues, which listed the many questions Nye’s son asked her while they watched a production of The Nutcracker, outbursts of laughter resonated around King Theatre.
The feedback on Nye’s speech from most students was positive; many enjoyed Nye’s selection of poems and found her topics and ideas interesting. Will Powers (III) said, “I thought her presentation style was very free-flowing and open… she picked readings which were very applicable and mostly relatable to us.”
Sean Chanicka (II), who also enjoyed Nye’s speech, remarked, “I thought Ms. Nye was a great speaker to bring in. The speakers I enjoy most are able to blend an interesting topic with a sense of humor.” Sean felt particularly influenced by the breadth of Nye’s stories, saying, “We sometimes don’t see the humor or meaning of our actions until we’ve had some time to reflect on them.” Conversely, Clay Heater (II) stated, “I feel that that connections between her poems were not as tangible as they could have been and I felt that the message she attempted to send was not completely delivered; however, I did find her speech [enjoyable].”
Nye’s presentation and presence in Creative Writing classes highlighted the start of the Spring season for many. “Nye was an attention-grabbing speaker,” stated Shira Golub (I). “I’m glad she was the last Bingham Reader I saw. It was a strong note to end on.”
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