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everything comes next

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 7 months, 2 weeks ago

12 December 2020 EVERYTHING COMES NEXT: COLLECTED & NEW POEMS by Naomi Shihab Nye, Greenwillow, September 2020, 256p., ISBN: 978-0-06-301345-2


“Sometimes I pretend


I’m not me,

I only work for me.


This feels like

a secret motor

chirring inside my mind.


I think, She will be so glad

when she sees the homework

neatly written.


She will be relieved

someone sharpened pencils,

folded clothes.


I can lack focus and still stroll through a contemporary novel or the next episode of a dramatic series.  But I need the figurative light to read good poetry. Given recent national events, I’d been holding off, waiting for the right time to read EVERYTHING COMES NEXT: COLLECTED & NEW POEMS by Naomi Shihab Nye. 


With the presidential election certified, the pantry stocked, and having sent out my final stack of postcards to Georgia voters, I arrived at a place where I could relax and pay attention.


And, voilà! I spent an enjoyable Saturday escounced in my favorite chair, savoring Naomi Shihab Nye’s great new collection of poetry. EVERYTHING COMES NEXT includes a number of her greatest hits, along with some terrific, brand new pieces.




When our English teacher gave

our first writing invitation of the year,

Become a kitchen implement

in two descriptive paragraphs, I did not think

butcher knife or frying pan,

I thought immediately

of soft flour showering through the little holes

of the sifter and the sifter’s pleasing circular

swishing sound, and wrote it down.

Rhonda became a teaspoon,

Roberto a funnel,

Jim a muffin tin,

and Forrest a soup pot.

We read our paragraphs out loud.

Abby was a blender. Everyone laughed

and acted giddy but the more we thought about it,

we were all everything in the whole kitchen, 

drawers and drainers, singing teapot and grapefruit spoon

with serrated edges, we were all the

empty cup, the tray.

This, said our teacher, is the beauty of metaphor.

It opens doors.

What I could not know then

was how being a sifter

would help me all year long.

When bad days came,

I would close my eyes and feel them passing

through the tiny holes. 

When good days came

I would try to contain them gently

the way flour remains

in the sifter until you turn the handle.

Time, time. I was a sweet sifter in time

And no one ever knew.”


I’ve been sharing Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry books for decades. Her poetry is personal, in the sense that you come to feel that you know Naomi by reading her poetry. 


It was always memorable, back when I attended book and librarian conventions, to hear Naomi read and get a chance to converse with her. She has built a career employing her wordcraft to promote poetry, along with understanding, peace, and justice. I’ve long come to see her as a kindred spirit, a sort of wise elder cousin. 


This latest collection, EVERYTHING COMES NEXT, is divided into three sections: “The Holy Land of Childhood,” The Holy Land That Isn’t,” and “People Are the Only Holy Land.” It contains old favs of mine like “My Father and the Fig Tree,” and “Red Brocade.” 


In the past, I’ve shared the terrific prefaces with which Naomi consistently begins her books of poetry. Here’s the latest:




The library shelves opened their arms. In the library everyone was rich. I stacked my bounty, counting books, arranging their spines. Bindings of new books smelled delicious.


On television, the poet Carl Sandberg strummed his guitar, his voice a honey-sweet dream or rolling, rollicking words. Cats and fog and words on the wind. His white hair looked lit up from inside like a lightbulb. I read every morning, every night. If you knew how to read, you could never be lonely.


If you knew how to read, it made sense that you might, one night in a tall Chicago hotel, ask for a large piece of pale construction paper--not the easiest thing to come by in a hotel--and write down something you felt that day when you saw the streets that were also bridges lifting up for boats to pass under. When you tipped your head back to gaze at the giant towers in which a thousand people worked who had never even thought of your name. It was worth saying. 


You could take it to school and give it to your first-grade teacher, who didn’t like you. Pretend it was a present. She would hang it on the bulletin board in the hall and weeks later, far from that trip, a girl in school who was bigger than you would pause to say, ‘Did you write that poem?’


‘Ho, yes, I almost forgot.’


She smiled. ‘I read it--and I know what you mean,’ skipping off to join her friends at the monkey bars. 


She knew what I meant. That was something. That was a wing to fly on all the way home, or for the rest of a life.”


I encourage you to brew yourself a cup of peppermint tea or pour a glass of lemonade. Settle in and experience the latest poetry by our current Young People's Poet Laureate. Just be certain to bookmark some to share.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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