Poetry Friday: Naomi Shihab Nye – How do I know when a poem is finished?

Carol at Carol’s Corner is hosting the Roundup this week.

Naomi Nye

Yesterday, Naomi Shihab Nye spoke to the lucky folks attending the Summer Institute at TC.  I followed Tweets, inspired as always by the power of this particular poet’s ability to move me.   I remembered sitting at Riverside Cathedral on Saturday Reunion, and listening to her deep and rich voice reciting poems and urging us to get  out there in our classrooms and nourish our students’ desires to notice and write.  I went home that day, and felt the need to listen to her voice again, and knowing that I would feel this need again, I saved these:

And she is reading a Naomi Shaihab Nye gem:

How do I know when a poem is finished?

When you quietly close
the door to a room
the room is not finished.

It is resting. Temporarily.
Glad to be without you
for a while.

Now it has time to gather
its balls of gray dust,
to pitch them from corner to corner.

Now it seeps back into itself,
unruffled and proud.
Outlines grow firmer.

When you return,
you might move the stack of books,
freshen the water for the roses.

I think you could keep doing this
forever. But the blue chair looks best
with the red pillow. So you might as well

leave it that way.


12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Naomi Shihab Nye – How do I know when a poem is finished?

  1. Oh, Tara! This is beautiful. I loved the images of the closed door in the beginning and the roses at the end. You captured the essence of what it feels like to be finished (or not finished) perfectly.

  2. I was thinking of you as I sent out a few tweets. She is a force of nature! Love her more now that I’ve heard her. And this poem, perfection. Something to save in my virtual pocket.

  3. Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite poets. Twenty something years ago, I got to hear her at a tiny bookstore in San Antonio, and it was so special.

  4. When I read her poems, I am often wondering if I can ever even get close to what she does. Her words always touch me, as this one does, too, and the videos also, Tara. Thanks-lovely sharing!

  5. Naomi has a way of just nailing it! I recently heard again her poem Kindness. “You have to lose things.” Ah, she is so wise. To be in her presence is to be in the presence of a great master. Such a blessing!

  6. I can’t believe I’ve never before seen this wonderfully true poem. A writer can tweak forever, we just have to resist the urge to keep doing it.

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