Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye (Arabic: نعومي شهاب ناي; born March 12, 1952) is an American poet, editor, songwriter, and novelist. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she began composing her first poetry at the age of six. In total, she has published or contributed to over 30 volumes of poetry. Her works include poetry, young-adult fiction, picture books, and novels.[1] Nye received the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature in honor of her entire body of work as a writer,[2] and in 2019 the Poetry Foundation designated her the Young People's Poet Laureate for the 2019–21 term.[3]

Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye at a San Antonio book signing, 2008
Nye at a San Antonio book signing, 2008
BornNaomi Shihab
(1952-03-12) March 12, 1952 (age 70)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Alma materTrinity University
SpouseMichael Nye

Early lifeEdit

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and songwriter born in 1952 to a Palestinian father, who worked as a journalist, editor and writer, and American mother, who worked as a Montessori school teacher.[4] Her father grew up in Palestine. He and his family became refugees in 1948, when the state of Israel was created. She has said her father "seemed a little shell-shocked when I was a child."[5] She grew up initially in Ferguson, St. Louis County, Missouri. In 1966, when Nye was 14, the family moved to the West Bank, Palestine when her father's mother was sick.[6] After less than a year,[7] before the 1967 Six-Day War occurred,[4] they moved to San Antonio, Texas.[8]

Nye graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, where she was editor of the literary magazine. She earned a BA in English and world religions from Trinity University[9] in 1974 and has lived in San Antonio ever since.[4]


Teaching writingEdit

After graduation, Nye worked as a writer-in-schools with the Texas Commission on the Arts. She has continued to teach writing workshops, mostly to kids.[4] Currently, she teaches creative writing at Texas State University.[10]


Nye characterizes herself as a "wandering poet," and says that much of her poetry is inspired by her childhood memories and her travels. She considers San Antonio her current home, "San Antonio feels most like home as I have lived here the longest. But everywhere can be home the moment you unpack, make a tiny space that feels agreeable". San Antonio is the inspiration behind many of her poems.[11] Both roots and sense of place are major themes in her body of work. Her poems are frank and accessible, often making use of ordinary images in startling ways. Her ability to enter into foreign experiences and chronicle them from the inside is reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop, while her simple and direct "voice" is akin to that of her mentor William Stafford.

Her first collection of poems, Different Ways to Pray, explored the theme of similarities and differences between cultures, which would become one of her lifelong areas of focus. Her other books include poetry collections 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, Red Suitcase, and Fuel; a collection of essays entitled Never in a Hurry; a young-adult novel called Habibi (the autobiographical story of an Arab-American teenager who moves to Jerusalem in the 1970s) and picture book Lullaby Raft, which is also the title of one of her two albums of music. (The other is called Rutabaga-Roo; both were limited-edition.)

Nye's first two chapter books, Tattooed Feet (1977) and Eye-to-Eye (1978), are written in free verse and possess themes of questing. Nye's first full-length collection, Different Ways to Pray (1980), explores the differences between and shared experiences of cultures from California to Texas and from South America to Mexico. Hugging the Jukebox (1982), a full-length collection that won the Voertman Poetry Prize, focuses on the connections between diverse peoples and on the perspectives of those in other lands. Yellow Glove (1986) presents poems with more tragic and sorrowful themes. According to the Poetry Foundation, Fuel (1998) may be Nye's most acclaimed volume and ranges over a variety of subjects, scenes and settings.[12]

Nye's poem Famous was referenced and quoted in full by Judge Andre Davis in his concurring opinion on the case G. G. v. Gloucester County School Board.[13]

Her poem So much happiness[14] was included in the 'Happiness' edition of Parabola.[15]

Editing anthologiesEdit

Nye has edited many anthologies of poems, for audiences both young and old. One of the best-known is This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from around the World, which contains translated work by 129 poets from 68 different countries. Her most recent anthology is called Is This Forever, Or What?: Poems & Paintings from Texas.

Awards and recognitionEdit

Nye has won many awards and fellowships, among them four Pushcart Prizes, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, and many notable book and best book citations from the American Library Association, and a 2,000 Witter Bynner Fellowship.[16] In 1997, Trinity University, her alma mater, honored her with the Distinguished Alumna Award.

In 1997, Nye became a Guggenheim Poetry Fellow. In 2000, Nye became a Witter Bynner Fellow, awarded by the Library of Congress. In 2002, she became a Lannan Literary Fellow.[17] In June 2009, Nye was named as one of's first peace heroes.[18] In 2013, Nye won the Robert Creeley Award.[19]

In October 2012, she was named laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature.[20] The NSK Prize is a juried award sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today magazine. In her nominating statement, Ibtisam Barakat, the juror who championed Nye for the award wrote, "Naomi's incandescent humanity and voice can change the world, or someone's world, by taking a position not one word less beautiful than an exquisite poem." Barakat commended her work by saying, "Naomi's poetry masterfully blends music, images, colors, languages, and insights into poems that ache like a shore pacing in ebb and flow, expecting the arrival of meaning."[21]

In 2019, the Poetry Foundation designated Nye their Young People's Poet Laureate for the 2019–21 term. The Foundation's announcement characterized Nye's writing style as one that "moves seamlessly between ages in a way that is accessible, warm, and sophisticated even for the youngest of readers."[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Although she calls herself a "wandering poet", Shihab Nye refers to San Antonio as her home and lives there with her family. She says a visit to her grandmother in the West Bank village of Sinjil was a life-changing experience. In 1978, she married Michael Nye, who worked initially as an attorney and latterly on photography and on writing on topics including hunger, teenage pregnancy and mental illness. They have one son.[4]

Published worksEdit


  • Different Ways to Pray: Poems. Breitenbush Publications. 1980. ISBN 978-0-932576-04-0.
  • On the Edge of the Sky. Iguana Press. 1981.
  • Hugging the Jukebox. Dutton. 1982. ISBN 978-0-525-47703-7.
  • Yellow Glove. Breitenbush Books. 1986. ISBN 978-0-932576-41-5.
  • Invisible: Poems. The Trilobite Press. 1987.
  • Mint. State Street Press Chapbooks. 1991.
  • Red Suitcase: Poems. BOA Editions. 1994. ISBN 978-1-880238-14-1.
  • Words Under the Words. The Eighth Mountain Press. 1994. ISBN 978-0933377295.
  • Fuel: poems. BOA Editions, Ltd. 1998. ISBN 978-1-880238-63-9.
  • Mint Snowball. Anhinga Press. 2001. ISBN 9780938078685.
  • 19 varieties of gazelle: poems of the Middle East. HarperCollins. 2002. ISBN 978-0-06-009766-0.
  • You & yours: poems. BOA Editions, Ltd. 2005. ISBN 978-1-929918-69-0.
  • A Maze Me: Poems for Girls. Greenwillow Books. 2005. ISBN 978-0060581893
  • Tender Spot: Selected Poems. Bloodaxe Books. 2008. ISBN 978-1-85224-791-1
  • Transfer. BOA Editions, Ltd. 2011. ISBN 978-1934414644.
  • Sometimes I Pretend: A Poem [artist's book]. Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas. 2014.
  • The Tiny Journalist: Poems. BOA Editions, Ltd. 2019. ISBN 9781942683728
  • "Kindness"

Children's poetryEdit

  • What Have You Lost? (with Michael Nye). Greenwillow Books. 1999. ISBN 0688161847.
  • Come With Me: Poems for a Journey. Greenwillow Books. 2000. ISBN 9780688159467.
  • Is This Forever or What?: Poems and Paintings from Texas. Greenwillow Books. 2003. ISBN 0060511788.
  • 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. Greenwillow Books. 2005. ISBN 978-0060504045.
  • Honeybee: poems & short prose. Greenwillow Books. 2008. ISBN 978-0060853907.
  • Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners. Greenwillow Books. 2018. ISBN 9780062691842.
  • Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems. Greenwillow Books. 2020. ISBN 9780063013452

Poetry in anthologiesEdit


  • Never in a Hurry: Essays on People and Places. University of South Carolina Press. 1996. ISBN 9781570030826.


Short storiesEdit


  • Rutabaga-Roo – I've Got a Song and It's for You (Flying Cat, 1979)


  • Naomi Shihab Nye, ed. (1995). The Tree Is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. ISBN 9780689802973.
  • Naomi Shihab Nye, Paul B. Janeczko, eds. (1996). I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You: Paired Poems by Men & Women. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780689813412.
  • Naomi Shihab Nye, ed. (1996). This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World. Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-689-80630-8.
  • Naomi Shihab Nye, ed. (1998). The Space Between Our Footsteps. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. ISBN 978-0689812330.
  • Naomi Shihab Nye; Ashley Bryan, eds. (2000). Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-688-16193-4.
  • Naomi Shihab Nye, ed. (2010). Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25. Greenwillow Books. ISBN 9780061896378.

Critical studiesEdit

  • Gómez-Vega, Ibis. "The Art of Telling Stornoyies in the Poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye." MELUS 26.4 (Winter 2001): 245-252.
  • Gómez-Vega, Ibis. "Extreme Realities: Naomi Shihab Nye's Essays and Poems." Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 30 (2010): 109-133.
  • Mercer, Lorraine, and Linda Strom. "Counter Narratives: Cooking Up Stories of Love and Loss in Naomi Shihab Nye's Poetry and Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent." MELUS 32.4 (Winter 2007):
  • Orfalea, Gregory. "Doomed by Our Blood to Care: The Poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye." Paintbrush 18.35 (Spring 1991): 56-66.



  1. ^ "2013 NSK Neustadt Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye". The Neustadt Prizes. July 31, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  2. ^ "Naomi Shihab Nye Wins 2013 NSK Prize". The Neustadt Prizes. June 4, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Poetry Foundation Announces 2019". Poetry Foundation. May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Naomi Shihab Nye a bright light of S.A. lit". May 20, 2015.
  5. ^ "- The Washington Post". Washington Post.
  6. ^ "Poet Naomi Shihab Nye Grew Up in Ferguson and the West Bank". The New York Observer. September 1, 2014.
  7. ^ Neklason, Annika. "Poem of the Week: 'Darling' by Naomi Shihab Nye - The Atlantic".
  8. ^ Contemporary American women poets : an A-to-Z guide. Cucinella, Catherine. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. 2002. ISBN 978-0313317835. OCLC 144590762.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ Poets, Academy of American. "About Naomi Shihab Nye | Academy of American Poets".
  10. ^ "Permanent Faculty". Department of English. March 9, 2021. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  11. ^ Long, Kate; Nye, Naomi Shihab (2009). "Roots: On Language and Heritage: A Conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye". World Literature Today. 83 (6): 31–34. doi:10.1353/wlt.2009.0357. JSTOR 20621789. S2CID 160273578.
  12. ^ "Naomi Shihab Nye". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  13. ^ "Poetry in the courtroom". April 11, 2017. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  14. ^ Poets, Academy of American. "So Much Happiness by Naomi Shihab Nye - Poems | Academy of American Poets".
  15. ^ "VOL. 42:2 Happiness". Parabola Online Store.
  16. ^ "Poetry in America Celebration - News Releases (Library of Congress)". February 25, 2000. Archived from the original on June 5, 2000. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  17. ^ Barakat, Ibtisam (2014). "A Tribute to Naomi Shihab Nye". World Literature Today. 88 (1): 46–49. doi:10.7588/worllitetoda.88.1.0046. JSTOR 10.7588/worllitetoda.88.1.0046. S2CID 163228005.
  18. ^ "One of the Top Christian Colleges in Indiana | Goshen College". Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  19. ^ "Robert Creeley Award". Robert Creeley Foundation. Archived from the original on December 4, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  20. ^ "Naomi Shihab Nye Wins 2013 NSK Prize". June 4, 2013.
  21. ^ "NSK Children's Prize". World Literature Today. Retrieved November 13, 2013.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit