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From the Writer’s Desk

BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

I love the big key on the front of my eighth anthology of poems, Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25. Thanks to Paul Zakris for making such a compelling cover! One thing about poems—they have more than one door to enter by. I felt this as I was reading and rereading (and proofing and re-proofing) the poems by the stunning young poets whose work fills the pages. Each time, the poems would invite me in through some new way. I always felt fortified, or better-lit, after rereading their work. (By the way, I have only met a few of them. I haven’t even met the one from Austin, Texas.)

It’s a strange mama-impulse, being the editor of an anthology—I want great things to happen for all these poets. And they’re already happening. Anyone who sends his or her voice out into the world better be ready for unexpected connections, little lights shining back at them, from everywhere. Read these wonderful poets and write something yourself. It’s the room they invite us into.

Run (DCAC 7/19/09) from Henry Mills on Vimeo.

Naomi Shihab Nye is an award-winning poet and anthologist, most recently of the book Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets under 25, which went on sale last week! She was named a National Book Award finalist for 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. Her many other honors include a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the I.B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, and four Pushcart Prizes, and two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

15 Comments

  1. Jonah says:

    I was lucky enough to be selected by Naomi to be in this collection. She was wonderful to work with. She helped these poems become everything they could, and that helped me in my own writing as well.

    As much of an honor as it was to work with Naomi, it was just as important to me to have my name alongside the other poets in the collection. I am lucky enough to even count some of them as friends. These people are doing new and exciting things in poetry. Their voices are genuine and authentic. They make me see the world a little differently every time I read their poems.

    Thank you to Naomi for putting together such a wonderful book. I wish everyone involved with it the very best.

  2. Brianne says:

    For me, “Publishing” was one of those vague, scary words (like “Graduate School” and “Health Insurance”) that lurked somewhere in the shadowy future and should probably be spelled with capital letters. This experience with Naomi has taught me not to be afraid of publishing because, well, it isn’t about me.

    I thought that the first time I published something that I would feel proud, that I would feel a sparking sense of accomplishment. Instead, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, humility and community. How thrilling to be a part of a collective voice that is brimming with so many images, sounds, ideas…

    In my mind I imagine Naomi patiently collecting all of our little voices and sewing them together. And then graciously sewing her voice to them… suddenly my small voice is part of a much much bigger story. So, thank you to Naomi for believing in young poets and gathering together such an inspiring anthology, and thank you to all my fellow poets for creating things of beauty and putting them out there into the world.

    (And yes, Paul Zakris, I don’t know you but I wholeheartedly agree with what Naomi said! What a lovely cover!)

  3. Emily Hendren says:

    Art has no borders, no laws of application; it has no predetermined, unspoken rule of “this piece moves you, this work means this to you, and this to you.” Becoming a part of an anthology that focuses on the stretching arm of poetry in American youth, reminds me why I create. As both a writer and high school teacher, I see the necessity of allowing young minds to re-find the joy in art they have often forgotten to look for and need direction back to. “Poem” shouldn’t be a fear-instilling word, but it is.

    I’m proud to be included in a body of work among such talented artists. Publication brings joy, but the real gift in this book for me is its message of inspiration to writers and creators every where: Have something to say? Scribble it out. Want to capture last night’s concert in art form? Put it down! With or without audience, art is valuable and necessary, even if only for the artist herself.

    Thank you, Naomi, for seeing common threads in our work and in us, and thank you fellow poets for offering your voices and being neighbors on the page; I’m truly honored to share this book with all of you!

  4. Mary says:

    Being part of this collection represents, for me, a transition into being able to “release” my poems to the community-at-large, to accept them as “done enough” for publication. I believe that poetry strives, at its core, to connect people to other people, to be part of a dialogue. Being part of this book has given me an opportunity to add my voice to this conversation and, I hope, to encourage young readers (current and future!) to do the same. I am thrilled and honored to be included in this. Thank you to Naomi and to the other poets in this collection!

  5. Ben Westlie says:

    When I was called by Naomi Shihab Nye about a year ago to talk about my poems and the inclusion in this project I was moved and humbled. I remember Naomi telling me how my work inspired her and that she had learned something incredible about poetry from each one of the poets in the anthology. I remember us laughing so much, as if we were old friends. She was lovely, kind and above all a mesmerizing presence.

    When reading the anthology I see this cohesive voice that is strewn throughout the poems. I see how each poet compliments the next as if we all lived another life together. As if the poems when side by side are the voices of again old friend’s speaking about evovling, becoming and of course this process of being human. I was and am so taken by the images in this anthology, at anytime I can open to any page and find something that shimmers, something that teaches me or reminds me how stunning humanity can be. I get to be a part of that. We all get to communicate with each other. I’m so honored, and again, so moved to have my work within the pages and among the brillance of my fellow writers.

    Thank you Naomi Shihab Nye. Thank you so very much for putting together such a project that conveys the development of emerging youth, the sound of feeling emotion and for the unveiling of this music that all the poets in this anthology are making within their words. I want you all to know I wish nothing but the best for you all. I want you all to know I will be out there listening. Thank you all so much.

  6. Megan says:

    I can’t decide what I love better about Naomi Shihab Nye, her beautiful poems, or the beautiful poems of other people that she collects for me to read. Thanks, Naomi!

  7. This anthology has been such a reaffirming experience, and I want to echo what Mary and others said about releasing one’s poems into the world. Making a statement, in whatever form, can be such a leap of faith! What this book represents to me is that there is at least a valuable truth in every noticing or utterance, that transcends age, that lasts longer than we do. Best of luck to my fellow poets in the anthology, and thanks again to Naomi for all her hard work and heart.

  8. […] the publisher of Time You Let Me In and an imprint of HarperCollins. You can read it here: http://greenwillowblog.com/?p=641 .  It was cool to read about her side of the process — how these poems by writers of a […]

  9. Tim Smith says:

    This collection kicks BUTT.

    It is outrageously good. Wickedly funny. So sad you’ll feel like you’re losing your breath. Romantic enough to make you blush. Optimistic. Gorgeous. Should come with a warning label: reading this is going to make you think about a lot of stuff.

    And if you’re a publishing professional, “The Indexer in Love” is worth the price of admission all by itself.

    Thank you, 26 under-25 poets, and thank you, Naomi.

  10. Lauren Eriks says:

    I could never have imagined that I would have the chance to celebrate my “coming out party” as a poet in such wonderful company. I am so grateful to Naomi for her generous encouragement of young writers and I am so honored to appear alongside such incredibly talented poets, many of whom I call friends and all of whom I admire. Sharing this book among us has been a breath of creative fresh air – an exciting reminder of how many gorgeous souls are out there, watching the stars and fishing for words.

    Thank you to Naomi, to my fellow poets, and to anyone reading and writing and loving beauty where you find it.

  11. Chase Berggrun says:

    I met Naomi at the Split This Rock Poetry festival in March of 2008. My mentor, the poet Joe Gouveia, and I had come to DC for the festival. He was a panelist on the subject of the poetic rant, and I was a shy young poet, a junior in highschool, 17 years old. I’d been writing for about 3 years. I was reading at the youth open mic the second day of the festival, and before I’d finished walking off the stage Naomi was out of her seat, running up to me to tell me how much she enjoyed my poetry, and that she was interested in including me in her new anthology. I was shocked, to say the least. This process has been so incredible. I am enormously proud to be included in this anthology with these other terrific young poets. Thank you!

  12. Camilla says:

    What great comments from the contributors! Congratulations to all of you on an amazing piece of work. Tim Smith said it far better than I could have!

  13. Nicole Guenther says:

    Thank you so much, Naomi, for the opportunity to be included in this anthology. I never expected that reading my poem, “Photons,” at the annual William Stafford poetry event at our library when I was fourteen would lead to being in a book when I was eighteen! Hearing back from you three years after giving Barbara Stafford a copy of that poem and a letter to forward to you really reinforced what you wrote in this blog: “Anyone who sends his or her voice out into the world better be ready for unexpected connections, little lights shining back at them, from everywhere.” When I received your email, I’d forgotten that small effort of looking up some of your poems and writing you a short letter–my mother said, “Oh, well, you never know what will come of things.” It has certainly led to an unexpected light!

    Billy Collins, on the other hand, hasn’t written me back… but it’s only been three years, so I suppose I shouldn’t write off a response yet. :-)

  14. Penny Burdette says:

    I am a high school speech teacher and would LOVE to use some of the poems in this book for contests! One of the categories for UIL competition is poems written by a published author born in 1960 or after. I need proof of birth for Nicole Guenther for a contest this weekend! Any help will be greatly appreciated!

  15. Nicole Guenther says:

    Hi Penny,
    I was born in 1991. I believe Greenwillow has a document they can send you to attest to this. I guess the contest has already passed, though – sorry!

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