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Poetry Foundation Feature: Naomi Shihab Nye: Young People's Poet Laureate

Young People’s Poet Laureate

Naomi Shihab Nye is the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate, serving from 2019 to 2021. Awarded by the Poetry Foundation for a two-year term, the Young People’s Poet Laureate aims to raise awareness that young people have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.

Read more about Naomi Shihab Nye.




Created in partnership with Motionpoems, this film adaptation of Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Famous” meditates on the human desire to be seen and the individualized ways in which we define recognition.

YPPL Naomi Shihab Nye’s May Pick

Book Pick

A New Land: 30 Groundbreaking Poems by Youth Poets
Introduction by Amanda Gorman
(The Telling Room, 2020)

Colors of yellow, blue, red forming a rainbow with the text A New Land written across it

Everyone would like to have an introduction by Amanda Gorman. Her inaugural poem, so brilliantly conceived and presented, really upped the enthusiasm for poetry on January 20, 2021. (I received dozens of emails asking if I knew her personal email address. I do not. I wrote her a fan letter on her website like everyone else could do.) So Gorman’s vote for this marvelous collection of work by young writers is a great vote indeed. I also note her comment that she “finds it ridiculous when poets are automatically waved aside as ‘aspiring’ or ‘emerging’ due to their age.” I couldn’t agree more. Many would say that child poets are the greatest poets. Stuart Kestenbaum, poet laureate of Maine, described this collection by “remarkable writers … full of rich language and moving detail” as helping him feel like a “traveler, seeing places for the first time.”

The poems are long and vibrant, well-lit by strong art and graphic elements. In three sections—“When We Began,” “Where We Are Now,” and “Who We Are Becoming”—the many modes of living are cupped and examined closely. Can’t travel due to Covid? Read poems that carry you easily and deeply into other real worlds, including difficult ones—violence, early pregnancy, prejudice—that matter to teens. This anthology is strongly recommended for all teachers of creative writing, especially at the high school level. You will find sustenance to share in every poem. And here’s a vote for the whole Telling Room initiative too. Molly McGrath, publications director, writes that this “leader in youth publishing has published more than 175 award-winning books and more than 3,500 authors and that more than 40,000 Telling Room books are in circulation.” Endorsed by the governor of Maine and the Maine Department of Education, this book went out to every high school (count, 224) in Maine. Here’s to sharing the voices!

YPPL Naomi Shihab Nye’s April Pick

Book Pick

How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope
Edited by James Crews
Foreword by Ross Gay
Storey Publishing (April 2021)

Image of the book cover of How to Love the World

In his second triumphant anthology—after Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness & Connection from 2018, an earlier book pick of mine—James Crews of Vermont offers another delicious gathering of voices, including Dorianne Laux, Jane Hirshfield, Andrea Potos, Joy Harjo, Marjorie Saiser, Lucille Clifton, and many others, to lift readers’ sagging spirits. He arranges the poems deftly, including “Reflective Pause” pages that offer commentary and an invitation for writing. This book could be your gift for everyone this year. We need it. Seriously, if you’re able, order extra copies. People frequently need gifts, whether in or out of quarantine—having extras of these books will take care your needs. I love the thoughtful selections of James Crews: the poems he chooses are incredibly welcoming, a harmonious chorus of voices dwelling together and magnifying one another. They sound as though they want to live side by side in a beautiful volume, to encourage people. Certainly they take difficulty into account, sometimes rising up from the round fullness of despair and trouble, giving us something helpful to hold on to. Especially, they sing. This is another crucial text for literature teachers to keep close at hand and for readers who know how poems echo our deepest experiences. It’s certainly for teenagers as well as adults.

YPPL Naomi Shihab Nye’s March Pick

DMU Timestamp: April 15, 2021 22:58

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