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.