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The Personhood Project Episode 1: Naomi Shihab Nye

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

In this episode, host, Aaron Tyler Hand sits down for a conversation acclaimed poet Naomi Shihab Nye on her front porch in San Antonio, Texas. They talk about the power of poetry to process the loss of a loved one, as well as read and discuss the poetry of incarcerated folks.



Naomi Shihab Nye

When you write, you can listen to those things in the back of your mind, wanting a place to be, wanting a place to gather.

Poems:


She Still Here


Can you not feel the intense presence of her touch

It is soft and gentle such like a baby hand

The unseen presence you will never understand



Whisper that Blows


The whispering of the unseen is like the wind that blows

It shivers my body while I listen to its tone

Can you not see the beauty in her heart

Pure and kind with great wisdom



See Me


Blue eyes, soft smile

Messy hair, freckled nose

I speak but no one listens

I hear. Examine. Observe.

They never know how I see

A world they overlook, from

A boy they mistook

Lover of life with a broken heart

Dreamer all the while



Element


When you blow I hear your voice In your direction you give no choice


On hot and humid days you make us rejoice

The ships on the water you push around like toys


To you there is no end

With your strength you make trees bend


On the days with fog you are my best friend

To the things that fly your hand you lend


When you’re angry you rip and rend

There is no other like you because you are the wind



12 Building Program Dorm


Door pops and you hear a clicking sound

Walk in and you look around

You notice vending machines and two tiers

Close by the door an officer sits near

Walk in and feel the calmness put your mind to rest

It's not like other units this dorm is the best

Posters on the walls of healthy living and all

Great peers and people of all

Take a look this an Anger Meter

My name is mine I’m a peer leader

Welcome to the dorm are you here to program

Yes I surely am

It’s time to come together and make a change

Divided we fall and together we stand

Thats how we live in this program dorm


Writing Prompts:

  1. Naomi Shihab Nye uses Mall Aquarium, Dubai to talk about the feeling unseen in this world. She sets the poem in an aquarium to help give a sense of confinement to show what is seen and what is unseen. Playing off of this idea, write a poem about what it feels like to be unseen. Like Mall Aquarium, Dubai, use descriptive words that help paint a picture of how the unseen should be seen.

  2. Nye says that Maximum Security was written after her time as a visiting poet at the Maine State Prison. She uses the poem to help humanize incarcerated people to people who are not familiar with the carceral system. Write a poem that helps humanize the people you interact with on a daily basis.

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