Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye to headline major British arts festival

Palestinian-American poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye has been announced as one of the headline artists at the Poetry Prom at this summer’s Aldeburgh Festival, one of the leading events of the British artistic year.

Ellen McAteer, director of The Poetry Trust and organizer of the Poetry Prom, told The Electronic Intifada in an email about the announcement that “I’m really excited to have Naomi here because she writes unflinchingly of the horror of the ongoing war in Palestine, while also seeing the humanity in both peoples.”

According to McAteer, stand-out moments in Shihab Nye’s writing include “Lines in poems like ‘passing the refugee camp,’ where she writes of soldiers ‘in suits the color of olive trees,’ eating oranges and laughing, who ‘know of the sweetness within,’ but forget to really see the people in front of them; who ‘look past the widow with a hand/on her daughter’s shoulder/ … watching for something bigger/or worse.”

McAteer also noted that the themes of Shihab Nye’s poetry incorporate images of Palestinians as people, “whom ‘the shadow of the olive tree’ will not leave, people conditioned to tension, conditioned out of a peaceful life, and declares in her most recent UK book, Tender Spot, ‘I support clothes in the wash-kettle/a woman stirring and stirring.’”

“It makes me think,” McAteer added, “of the women of Northern Ireland, who had lost sons and husbands, and still begged both sides to stop, for the sake of peace, and finally had their voices heard.”

The daughter of a Palestinian father and an American mother, Naomi Shihab Nye grew up in Ramallah and Jerusalem in Palestine and in San Antonio, Texas. Her volumes of poetry include Hugging the Jukebox (1982), Red Suitcase (1994), 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002), You and Yours (2005) and Transfer (2011). She has also written a number of books of poetry and fiction for children, including the prize-winning Habibi.




The Poetry Prom takes place during the Snape Proms on Weds 26 August and not during the Aldeburgh Festival. The Snape Proms run from 1 - 31 August each year at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. The Aldeburgh Festival runs for three weeks in June every year, and is a world-renowned classical musical festival.

Sarah Irving

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Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.