cover image Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners

Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners

Naomi Shihab Nye.. Greenwillow, $17.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-269184-2

"People do not pass away./ They die/ and then they stay," declares Nye's brief poem "Voices in the Air," the titular work in her collection of 95 poems. The meaning of the collection's subtitle is twofold: the poems are moving when read aloud, but Nye is also asking readers to take part in a more profound and subtle type of listening, a kind that cuts through the noise and hears what matters. Each poem is inspired by an individual's life or words, including poet Henry David Thoreau; political activist, writer, and teacher Grace Paley; and Caroline Mueller, an organic farmer from Ferguson, Mo. Valuable short biographies of each figure are included in the collection's back matter, which allows for a better understanding of Nye's references. Some poems directly address individuals. In "Train Across Texas" (dedicated to Langston Hughes), she writes: "Langston, what did Texas look like back then." Other allusions are far less clear, left like trails of clues for readers to follow. Despite being divided into three loosely themed sections, Nye's collection invites readers to freely meander through the pages in order to experience each poem on its own terms. Ages 13-up. (Feb.)