cover image The Tiny Journalist

The Tiny Journalist

Naomi Shihab Nye. BOA, $24 (112p) ISBN 978-1-942683-72-8

This latest collection finds the acclaimed Nye (Transfer), daughter of a Palestinian refugee, arguably disproving William Carlos William’s adage that “it is difficult to get the news from poems.” In 70 lyrical meditations populated by protesters, students, street sweepers, carpet weavers, and others seeking to endure the unendurable, Nye demonstrates poetry’s ability to vividly portray the lives behind the headlines. The speakers of these poems are most effective when matter-of-fact: “I knew the man down the alley by the market/ who dragged his leg. He was out there, smoking,/ almost my whole life.” Such snapshots immerse the reader in a Palestinian village community, bringing home the devastation of tear gas, bombs, and international indifference. Nye is critical of euphemistic reportage (“ ‘Deadline for Demolition’/ as if cruelty had its own calendar/ a banker or a businessman”) and at times plainspoken and aphoristic in the manner of Szymborska, effectively conveying conflict’s human cost. In “No Explosions,” the speaker observes, “To enjoy/ fireworks/ you would have/ to have lived/ a different kind/ of life.” Even when using a more lyrical register, Nye’s desire for poetry to break the fourth wall and challenge the reader’s complacency is palpable. “When Facebook says I have ‘followers,’ ” she says in the voice of Janna Ayyad, the young Palestinian activist from whose story the collection draws inspiration, “I hope they know I need their help.” [em](Apr.) [/em]