Extraordinary poet Naomi Shihab Nye is generous in support of other writers and with friendship to her fellow human beings. Read her poems “Kindness” and “GateA4” below, explore more of her poems, and see her comments on Sri Chinmoy’s Garden of Love-Light which was highlighted at the 2016 Sri Chinmoy Poetry Festival.
Born in St. Louis, MO to a Palestinian father and an American mother, Naomi has received numerous honors and awards for her work. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2010 to 2015, and is currently the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate 2019-2021.
Read her poems“Kindness” and “GateA4” below to explore more of her poems.
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye – 1952-
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
On The Garden of Love-Light Poems by Sri Chinmoy
In these days of endless bad news, with the “cord of wild restlessness” wrapping ’round us daily, it is easy to feel deeply hungry for “infinity’s lustre” – calming, abiding images and invocations to hearten our spirits. No matter how religious one is or is not, the essential luminosity of Sri Chinmoy’s spirit and fervor feels compelling, refreshing, and profoundly hopeful. His poems are always attentive to a deeper call, awakening and stirring his readers. They help us be more silent “in the grove (of our minds)” as well as better witnesses with our own words. What a gift this volume is.
– Naomi Shihab Nye