|Naomi Shihab Nye|
March 12, 1952 |
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
I think the job of writing and literature is to encourage each one of us to believe that we're living in a story.
I keep thinking, we teach children to use language to solve their disputes. We teach them not to hit and fight and bite. Then look what adults do!
I grew up in St. Louis in a tiny house full of large music – Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson singing majestically on the stereo, my German-American mother fingering 'The Lost Chord' on the piano as golden light sank through trees, my Palestinian father trilling in Arabic in the shower each dawn.
My father was very disappointed by war and fighting. And he thought language could help us out of cycles of revenge and animosity. And so, as a journalist, he always found himself asking lots of questions and trying to gather information. He was always very clear to underscore the fact that Jewish people and Arab people were brother and sister.
During the Gulf War, I remember two little third grade girls saying to me – after I read them some poems by writers in Iraq – 'You know, we never thought about there being children in Iraq before.' And I thought, 'Well those poems did their job, because now they'll think about everything a little bit differently.'
You know, those of us who leave our homes in the morning and expect to find them there when we go back – it's hard for us to understand what the experience of a refugee might be like.
As a direct line to human feeling, empathic experience, genuine language and detail, poetry is everything that headline news is not. It takes us inside situations, helps us imagine life from more than one perspective, honors imagery and metaphor – those great tools of thought – and deepens our confidence in a meaningful world.
I think whenever you love something or somebody it means that you have to extend yourself, you have to grow – get a little larger. You can't stay in your little comfortable – spot.