The Norman Transcript


November 1, 2013

NSK Neustadt speakers discuss love of poetry

NORMAN — Naomi Shihab Nye, NSK Neustadt Prize laureate, and Ibtisam Barakat, NSK Neustadt Prize juror, spoke Thursday at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History of their craft and poetry’s ability to connect with readers by its brevity and subtly.

Nye is an American author with Palestinian roots on her father’s side. She is celebrated for her sensitivity to difficult and culturally based social issues, such as the post-Sept. 11 treatment of Arab Americans in the United States.

Nye has published several collections of poetry for adults and children, including “Yellow Glove,” “Fuel,” “19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East” and “Habibi.”

Barakat’s memoir, “Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood,” is about being a child in war and living under occupation. It has won more than 20 awards and honors, including the International Reading Association’s Best Non-Fiction for Young Adults and the Middle East Council’s Best Literary Book.

To begin the event, Pioneer Library staff members Valerie Kimble, Leah Kenton-McGaha and Alex Batchelor read an excerpt from Nye’s work about a teenage American girl who moves to Palestine and some of Nye’s poetry, including “Torn Map.”

“Once by mistake she tore a map. In half. She taped it back together. But crookedly. Now all the roads end in water. There were mountains right next to her hometown. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? I’d tear a map and be right next to you,” Kimble said as she recited Nye’s poem.

“I love the brevity of a poem,” Nye said. “It speaks of our time.”

Nye and Barakat went on to discuss how poetry leads and trusts a reader; it doesn’t tell them what to think or know.

“I liked poetry because it trusted that I had a brain. That it didn’t explain; it just gave me the idea,” Nye said.

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