Sunday, September 26, 2010
Time You Let Me In, written by Naomi Shihab Nye. Harper, 2010. $22.50 ages 14 and up
Grandmother, give me
The strength of a bear, show me
Your wedding gown watered in white, your eyes
Like Rita Hayworth, your Chicago
Smile, beams like a porch light, like a full
Friday night. I can gasp in your love,
Like your veins, like the blue
Threading roads on the backs of your hands.
I can burn with your breath
As you read me my name, Grandmother,
Give me the strength of a bear."
Naomi Shihab Nye is an honored and celebrated anthologist. She is also a poet. She knows the importance of voice and here she presents 25 poets under 25 (well, 26...she is 'good with words, bad with numbers') and their words. Each of these young poets tells a story that is their own, and they each contribute four poems. Some of their topics are related, some are not. They write about love and war, comfort and great joy, family and heritage, trauma and identity.
As we read their poems and each of the short notes about the contributors that follow the text, we come to know about them and the lives they lead. I loved that little glimpse and found it enlightening to read some of the poems that express so much about who they are and who they are likely to become; it is also uplifting to know they find solace in words and expression. The styles differ, the subjects are diverse and the tones range from very funny to very serious. There is a needed balance in the choices made by this adept and thoughtful anthologist.
We need to hear these voices and I cannot imagine the joy that Naomi Nye must have felt when poring over the unique, often urgent submissions. You will find your own favorites as you first read and then share this book with older students, or adults. Some of the lines have found their way into my poetry journals and I will read them again and again. I will leave you with this:
"I love them,
the children whose homes are FEMA trailers bordering
the wreckage of their once houses _
Over and over they thank us,
like my group and I were misfit angels
with paint on our clothes and in our hair,
mud covering the bottom of our shoes."