On the Power of Poetry
I hope things are well in your part of the world.
I recently lost my mother after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. At her memorial service, I spoke about her life and closed with a reading of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Famous,” about the simple actions that shape meaning in life.
I was reminded of the power of poetry in the responses I received from friends who watched the service and were touched by the poem.
Words give tangible meaning to vague emotion and there is magnified magic in the sharing of meaninful words. As we take the time to articulate, discover, and give, a bit of what it means to be human is revealed to us.
My favorite poetry discovery this year has been Words under Words by Naomi Shihab Nye. She’s a brilliant writer, someone who has belonged and not belonged to multiple cultures (Palestinian American in Texas), with a gift for observation and finding meaning in the mundane.
I also love that Nye’s poems have a surprise turn — reading like a long-form haiku. The twist in the last stanza is always captivating, especially in the poem below.
As always, feel free to send your poems along to Dead Poet’s Live, I’m always happy to read your work. If you do have an idea for a prompt, please do submit a draft, I could definitely use help on that front, and I’m happy to work with you to help with polishing a prompt before we publish.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
Which knew it would inherit the earth before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
Or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
But because it never forgot what it could do.