On Wednesday, Parker was fortunate to welcome award-winning Palestinian-American poet, writer, anthologist and educator Naomi Shihab Nye as the 6th Annual Jeanne Harris Hansell Endowed Fund for Poetry presenter. She dazzled the Parker community with her positive energy, benevolence and thought-provoking messages and anecdotes.
Nye kicked off her visit with 6th grade English teacher George Drury’s class. After the initial introduction, Drury and Nye seemed more like old friends, as Nye was effusive in her delight as she toured Drury’s room. A highlight came when Nye noticed a poster for a poetry reading of one of her favorite poets and mentors, William Stafford. Next, as students eagerly filed in and sat at their desks, Nye read a selection of her work and discussed its inspiration and her process in writing it. Before leaving the 6th graders, she encouraged them to keep writing.
Nye moved from Drury’s class to the Heller Auditorium where she welcomed 2nd and 3rd grade students. Seventh grade English teacher Kate Tabor introduced Nye and got these young students excited to talk poetry. Nye began with a story about traveling to Chicago when she was six, when she was so impressed with the big buildings that she wrote her very first poem! Later, after having read her poem, Nye responded to an older student who wanted to share her excitement because she had also been to Chicago. Nye describes this as the “magic moment” that led to a life of poetry. She finished by reading some of her poems and provided some tips and tricks to help encourage these youngsters to begin a life filled with writing.
Next, Nye presented a Morning Ex for 4th through 12th grade students discussing her personal history and experiences being from a bicultural background. She then chose selections from her many books of poetry. After reading each poem, she shared the inspiration behind it or special memories she associated with the words, which offered students a tremendous insight into what makes a successful poet tick. Nye then spent time explaining how a life of writing has helped her in many other aspects of her life.
After this Morning Ex, Nye met with Avani Kalra ’20 for a special in-depth interview for The Weekly. Kalra was able to dive deeper into some of the topics Nye spoke about during her MX; the Parker community will soon have a chance to read this piece. Nye then met with the Upper School SLAM Poetry Team and Poetry Club for a relaxed lunch and conversation.
To end her day, Nye held a public reading attended by Parker parents, students, friends and even one fellow visiting Chicago all the way from Transylvania! Showcasing her trademark goodwill, Nye impressed the audience with her poetry, providing personal anecdotes along the way to help the audience connect. From sharing how a pushy person led her to try her hand at short stories to advising those with writer’s block to try responding to email in poetry form, Nye provided insight into who she is as a poet and a person. Before signing books for the audience, she finished her night with the poem “Kindness
Parker is extremely grateful to the Hansell family and Naomi Shihab Nye for spending the day with our students!
for more photos from Nye’s visit.
This event is made possible through a gift from the Hansell family. The Jeanne Harris Hansell Endowed Fund for Poetry, established in the name of Jeanne Harris Hansell ’45, will ensure continued success of the “Poetry at Parker” series, as well as allow the school to host renowned guest poets and speakers about poetry in years to come. Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins was Parker’s inaugural visiting poet in the 2012–13 academic year, followed by Nikky Finney, Louise Glück, Kevin Young and Joy Harjo.