Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye

It must have been precious...the look on my face when I realized publishers were giving away ARCs of books at a recent conference.

I quickly became a happy pack-horse.

On the last day of the conference, I told myself, not one more book, when I found myself browsing in the manner of a dieter that's going to start on Monday. The sweet sales rep asked what I was looking for.


     "Hold on a sec, I've got just the thing," popping around the corner returning with Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye.

You could have knocked me over with a feather--not kidding. I had tears in my eyes. I might have scared the poor woman.

I tried reading Voices in the Air several times. But, the hubbub of holidays and raising teens left me too keyed-up to settle into it.

And then, snow days.....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. God does love a Teacher Librarian, doesn't She?

Here's the thing. I don't feel at all qualified to actually review Nye's work. I mean, it's Naomi Shihab Nye (I'm screaming like a Beetles fan in 1967 here).

But I can give you some impressions that I hope will urge you to get a copy of these poems and make them part of your heart.

First, as I read the poems I was struck by the sense of place--in every poem, Nye grounds this work in place. From a seat at a poetry conference to an airplane to a beach to imagined places of the mind, a reader is taken to a place. I was so fascinated, I created a word cloud of all the locations I found as I read.

And there were moments when I knew this poet was speaking to me. I'm not sure by what magic....but she does. 

A Lonely Cup of Coffee
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Far preferable

to a sociable cup

which tastes more

of talk

the lonely cup






the quiet mouth


Nye pens journeys far, far from blessed moments alone with a cup of coffee. We join Syrian refugees and Palestinians and North American First Peoples. 

"Bombs have no mothers," in Invitation to the NSA (111)

She shares what poets know well, "saying your words, between daylight and the dark, swinging them like small lanterns..." Longfellow's Bed (85).

Nye knew, For Caroline M. (71)  would bring me the release of tears I needed as my friend, Amy, lay dying surrounded by her loved ones....literally while I read the poem enabling the goodbye that had felt wrong to say.

Nye's wisdom reminds, "Some people are born to be present, hold the note."  Showing Up (69).

As a poet, I am supremely unqualified to review the nuts and bolts Nye's work....but as a human and a reader...I'm telling you, this book is for me, for my students and for you. Even if you don't know that you need it, you do. 

Please go directly to our beautiful friend, Jan's blog at Bookseedstudio. She is hosting this week with treasured topics.


  1. Naomi Shihab Nye is a magician, the Nancy Willard of our time. We are all the beneficiaries of your asking for poetry from that conference ARC angel.
    I love the idea of Longfellow's words being swung like small lanterns!
    Every gem you've shared from VOICES IN THE AIR is something to memorize for always.

    I'm very sad for you & for Amy's family about this huge loss.

    (And thank you for the sweet words. . . )

  2. I went to a library conference years ago, and when I came back home, the border crossing guard looked at my suitcase full of books and said, incredulously, "what are you planning to do with all these books?" I look at him equally confused, and answered "I'm going to read them!" His response: "ALL of them?!" :-D

  3. Oh Linda! You made me laugh! What a lovely exchange between you and the sales rep. She probably thought, "This kind of reaction is why I love my job!" I typically feel awed by Nye's work, so I'm delighted to find I have company in that little canoe. With your encouragement I will paddle!

  4. I love her work for adults and for kids. The last two lines of "A Lonely Cup" give me a deep sense of recognition -- this is so true.

  5. Not qualified to review? This is a brilliant review! I am going to seek the book out. Hugs to you on the loss of your friend.

  6. Naomi's poetry is accessible to all. And so is she! You have captured her beauty and talent in your post. I think I would have had the same reaction to getting the ARC of her book.

  7. Linda, I am deeply touched by your generous words, and I thank you. My poems feel very happy to find a friend like you. love, naomi

  8. Brava Linda, for creating a heartfelt review of Naomi's new book–her words speak to me also, and look she's spoken directly to you!
    "the lonely cup
    truly blessed
    "the quiet mouth"
    here in your blog. Thanks!

  9. Linda, what a wonderful citing of quotes from Naomi's book. She is an amazing speaker and poet who allows her writing to settle in with her readers. This quote with your commentary stands out to me: She shares what poets know well, "saying your words, between daylight and the dark, swinging them like small lanterns..." Longfellow's Bed (85). I want to thank you for delightful package from you that was delivered this week. My PF post showcases what you sent.

  10. SCORE! You lucky ducky to nab an ARC of that. Can't wait to get my hands on it. Thanks for the preview! -- Christie @

  11. Linda, this is a wonderful, moving review. I was lucky enough to see Naomi Nye speak in Maine a year or so ago and always am affected by her work. I can't wait to read this newest book. I'm terribly sorry about your friend and hope that poetry creates a space of peace for you.

  12. I've always used Naomi Shihab Nye in my courses - her poetry speaks so much truth. I am thrilled that she has a new book coming out - will probably pre-order via Book Depository. Thanks for sharing that snippet that makes me long for the book even more. Sending you love and light!

  13. Wow, Linda, it's a beautiful review, and I do understand your thrilling moment when you were offered THE book. My only disappointment is that it is not our yet!. Thank you for sharing these wonderful parts. Ah-h! Sounds so nice!

    1. I'm sorry to hear about your friend. It is never the right time to say goodbye, one of the hardest things to decide. Hugs for your sadness.

  14. Jan, yours is exactly the type of review I like to read--lots of specific ways and places the poems spoke to you. I think I want this book (if for no other reason than the lone coffee blessing the quiet mouth). Thanks!

  15. Oh, wow. There's no need for a review to be anything more than a heartfelt yours was perfect. Condolences on the loss of your friend. I'm glad you found the release you needed.

  16. Thank you for sharing glimpses into what sounds like an absolute treasure of a new collection, Linda. And keeping you and yours especially close in such a difficult time.

  17. Hi Linda, I'm glad you had a snow day so you could settle down into Nye's poetry. She has given me many happy sighs. I'm sorry about your friend's passing...I'm thankful Nye's small lanterns shed some light when you needed it. Hugs.

  18. It's a post like this that shows how right it is that you have the job of leading readers to books. Do not diminish your skills and your passion by telling us why you aren't qualified to review--instead go on and speak up like this, with precision and emotion, about the impact a poem can have on one moment, an hour, a snow day, a life.

    Can't wait to get this book. Still working on Nye's *What Have You Lost,* a holiday gift.

  19. I can't imagine who is more qualified to review a book of poetry than you, Linda. Great job. I can't to see this book myself. I am a fan of hers as well. In fact, I believe I have a book of hers in my library bag right now. :-) I'm saving it like a chocolate.

  20. Thank you for your heartfelt introduction to this book. I adore Naomi Shihab Nye's work and will be waiting impatiently for this book to be released. I'm so sorry about the loss of your friend. Hugs to you, Linda.

  21. Linda--I'm so sorry for your loss. Poetry is so healing. Thanks for sharing this new Naomi Shihab Nye book. I loved your review...sending hugs.

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