Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and songwriter born in 1952 to a Palestinian father and American mother. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas. Both roots and sense of place are major themes in her body of work.
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 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.
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.
She 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.
Today Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family. She characterizes herself as a “wandering poet,” and says that much of her poetry is inspired by her childhood memories and her travels.