Episcopal Students Treated to Live Poetry Reading by Internationally Acclaimed Poet Naomi Shihab Nye
It’s not every day that a poet stands before you and personally recites one of her works upon your request. However, that very thing happened recently at Episcopal when internationally acclaimed, award-winning poet and children’s author Naomi Shihab Nye paid a visit to Upper and Middle School students. Mrs. Nye recited her poem "Valentine for Ernest Mann" at the prompting of AP Language and Poetry class students and the full school assembly.
It was a tremendous honor to have such an accomplished poet take time to visit campus and share with students and staff. Mrs. Nye began writing as a child and has since seen her works read across the globe in a multitude of languages. She has authored and/or edited more than 30 volumes over the course of her career. Mrs. Nye has earned extensive recognition for her poetry, including being named a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creely Prize, “The Betty Prize” from Poets House and the American Library Association’s 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award, in addition to many other honors.
Mrs. Nye’s connection to Episcopal began in San Antonio, Texas, where she met Hugh McIntosh, who was then the Head of School at Keystone School, which Mrs. Nye’s son attended. The renowned poet and author established a Keystone poetry group in which Hugh participated, even offering his Head of School office as a meeting site. Hugh and Mrs. Nye’s friendship has continued over the years now with him serving as Episcopal Head of School.
During this recent visit, Mrs. Nye spent a full day speaking with students about the writing process and the impact that simply putting a thought on paper can have on a person. The language and poetry class students enjoyed the opportunity to speak with her about the poem "Catalogue Army", which they had all recently studied. The students were receptive, asking thought-provoking questions that Mrs. Nye enjoyed answering. They were also prepared for the discussion, quoting their favorite lines from her poetry and engaging with her words.
During assembly, the VPAC was full of teenagers with varying levels of appreciation for writing. However, one thing the students all had in common was their attentiveness and commitment to listening. In fact, Mrs. Nye complimented the near-capacity crowd for their compassionate, generous listening skills as she read and discussed some of her favorite works. She expressed how at home and welcome she felt when visiting Episcopal for the second time.
Before parting, Mrs. Nye left students with a suggestion to scribble down three little things or thoughts each day so that they can remember and reflect upon them later. She also advised students to find writers they can follow and learn from and to frequent the local library.
During the learning process students are introduced to poetry and writing in books and classrooms. At Episcopal, we are blessed to be able to take this a step further and personally introduce the students to the poets and authors who penned the works. We look forward to future visits from Mrs. Nye and others.
What an amazing way for our students to learn more about writing!
The last stanza from one of Naomi Shihab Nye's beloved poems entitled “Kindness”.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye