Friday, May 18, 2018

Poetry Friday: Naomi Shihab Nye and the Arbuthnot Honor Lecture at WWU

Head over to Sloth Reads for this week's round-up
of poetic goodness. Rebecca is sharing a
book of poetry her family loves and a giveaway.
Thanks, Rebecca, for hosting our gathering this week.

It's been three weeks since I heard Naomi Shihab Nye give the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture at Western Washington University. When I learned she was coming to the Pacific NW to give this lecture, I knew I wanted to attend. I emailed some of my poetry loving friends, but no one was able to join me. I threw a wider net and managed to convince two good friends to join me, one of whom had to cancel due to birthday plans with her family. The other friend told me that she has never liked poetry, but being the good friend she is, she agreed to accompany me. I shared a few poetry books by Naomi Shihab Nye with her prior to the event. 

The evening was delightful for both of us. Notebook open on my lap, I attempted to capture the gist of the wonderful words shared during the evening. Many of my notes are unfinished sentences because before I could finish a thought, Naomi would start another sentence that I longed to capture. So I'm looking forward to the future publication of her lecture in Children and Libraries: The Journal of ALSC. 

Until then, here are some of my half-captured thoughts from Naomi Shihab Nye's lecture, Refreshments Will Be Served: Our Lives of Reading and Writing.

  • How many times may our lives start because of books? 
  • For those who find homes in books, we have an ongoing ticket to sanity.
  • Nothing is more delicious than tucking up with a good book.
  • Naomi shared her two favorite books with us, The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown (the first book I argued with, talked to out loud) and Favorite Poems Old and New edited by Helen Ferris (my first time to see many voices collected in one book).
  • She recommended a novel, The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook, set during the Civil War in Texas.
  • It's impossible to be lonely when you have a good book.
  • We are all our grandmother's bread.
  • We read books. We write poems. We belong to ourselves.
  • We live on the edges of stories we don't hear.
  • We grow accustomed to the dark when light is put away. - Emily Dickinson
  • Reading and writing subvert the notion that things have to be the way they are.
  • I believe in having mentors and being fans. Naomi mentioned two of her mentors - William Stafford and Peter Matthiessen.
  • Find our heroes in obituaries.
  • Books are the living air we breathe.
  • Empathy is about finding echoes of ourselves in another person.
  • Reading things that fortify you will help you keep growing.
  • She encouraged us to explore the digital library of William Stafford. We need his work in this time.
  • Finally, here is some of the advice shared by Naomi in response  to a question posed by an audience member. "How do we remain hopeful?" Keep reading good books. Share better news. Read twice as much. Share what inspires and fortifies you. 

And that is the reason I feel compelled to share my incomplete and rapidly scrawled (but hopefully mostly correct) notes from this lecture, an event that inspired and fortified me and encourages me to keep believing in the power of reading and writing. 


  1. Thank you, Ramona, It's a pleasure to read your "scrawled" notes! I used The Important Book so often in my teaching, nice to hear that Naomi Nye loves it, too!

  2. Ramona, what an amazing job of recreating Naomi's presentation for us. I am impressed with your notes and thank you for all of the wisdom from Naomi that you recorded.

  3. Thank you, Ramona! Glad you were able to hear her speak. I am a big fan of hers (and Wm. Stafford). Two quotes I was curious about: "We are all our grandmother's bread" and "Find our heroes in obituaries.

  4. Sounds wonderful! I'm so glad you were able to go!

  5. Thank you for sharing your notes. It sounds like it was inspiring and wonderful

  6. Yeah! I am glad you shared your notes--such wisdom in her words.

  7. Thanks for sharing your notes Ramona, I feel I was there for a part of it!