Award-winning poet to give Summers Memorial Lecture

March 23, 2011 | Events, UToday
By Vicki L. Kroll



Have words, will travel. That’s Naomi Shihab Nye, who describes herself as a “wandering poet.”

For more than three decades, she has journeyed around the world to lead writing workshops and inspire students of all ages.

Her travels will bring her to The University of Toledo, where she will give the 22nd annual Richard M. Summers Memorial Lecture Friday, March 25, at 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2100.

Nye will give a poetry reading and answer questions about her work.

“Naomi Shihab Nye is a true poetic treasure. Her ability to merge divergent cultures and geographies into her writing make her a model of all that is best about American letters,” said Dr. Timothy Geiger, UT professor and associate chair of English. “We are genuinely lucky to have her visit the University, and her reading will be a fitting tribute to Toledo’s own unique synthesis of Middle-Eastern cultures.”

An author and editor of nearly 30 volumes, Nye began writing poems at age 6.

“I liked the portable, comfortable shape of poems,” she said in a 1999 interview with Pif Magazine. “I liked the space around them and the way you could hold your words at arm’s length and look at them. And especially the way they took you to a deeper, quieter place, almost immediately.”

She has shared her reflections in several poetry collections, including You & Yours (2005), 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002), Fuel (1998), Red Suitcase (1994) and Hugging the Jukebox (1982).

Nye also has written several works for young readers; these include A Maze Me: Poems for Girls (2005) and Honeybee (2008), which won the Arab-American Book Award in the children’s/young adult category that year.

In addition, she has put together prize-winning poetry anthologies for young readers, including This Same Sky (1996), The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems & Paintings From the Middle East (1998) and What Have You Lost? (2001).

Two new works, There Is No Long Distance Now, a collection of short stories, and Transfer, a book of poetry and prose, are expected to be published in 2012.

Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received numerous awards, including a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets and four Pushcart Prizes. In 2010, she was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Her work has been presented on National Public Radio and featured in two PBS specials.

The Richard M. Summers Memorial Lecture was established by Marie Summers to honor her son, a member of the UT Department of English from 1966 until his death in 1988. The lecture is designed to bring a distinguished literary scholar, critic or writer to the University.

For more information on the free, public lecture, call the UT English Department at 419.530.2318.

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