The Renaissance had its wandering minstrels; we have Naomi Shihab Nye, and on Friday, Nov. 14, from 7:30 to 9pm, the internationally renowned poet will give a reading of her work at the historic KiMo Theatre (423 Central NW). A self-described “wandering poet,” her topics range far and wide. It’s no surprise—Nye’s father was a Palestinian refugee, and she spent her childhood in San Antonio, Ramallah and Jerusalem. While her international upbringing has informed her work, ultimately it’s the discrete, human moments in life that illuminate her poetry and make it universal. William Stafford, who held the position that would become the US Poet Laureate, championed her work and wrote that her “poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight.”
In one poem she writes, “I’m partial to poems about/ little ruinations, explosions of minor joy,/ light falling on the heads of gentle elders.” In another, striving to bridge cultural difference, she expresses her frustration at not being able to speak fluent Arabic during her travels in Jordan: “The man with the laughing eyes stopped smiling/ to say, ‘Until you speak Arabic—/ you will not know pain.’” Nye’s work has garnered numerous awards including the Academy of American Poets Lavan prize and four Pushcart prizes, and she’s held Guggenheim and Lannan Foundation fellowships.
Naomi Shihab Nye is “able to draw from her own culturally diverse upbringing ... [and] speaks to the richness of blending cultures. We can use her poetry and its message as a vehicle to discuss and examine the cultures in our own state.”
It’s not every day a poet of this stature comes through Albuquerque, but the New Mexico Humanities Council, whose mission is to engage New Mexicans in dialogue about cultural diversity and the humanities, wanted Nye to be the featured speaker for their annual Convocation. Marley Gibson, the communications officer for NMHC, discussing the council’s selection of Nye, explains that the poet is “able to draw from her own culturally diverse upbringing ... [and] speaks to the richness of blending cultures. We can use her poetry and its message as a vehicle to discuss and examine the cultures in our own state.”
Breaking with the traditional awards ceremony and dinner gala of past Convocations, this event is free and open to the public. After the reading, Nye will be joined by acclaimed journalist Megan Kamerick to discuss her work and vision. You can also catch the reception cocktail party prior to the event from 5 to 7pm just down the street from the KiMo at Hotel Andaluz ($40, 125 Second Street NW). For more info and to purchase tickets to the opening reception, visit nmhum.org.