April 15, 2015

Dear Naomi Shihab Nye,

My name is Nathanael and I go to school in Stockton, CA, and I am in the 8th grade. I read your poem, "How Do I Know When a Poem Is Finished?" and I thought that I could really connect to your poem and I think just reading this poem has reminded me something important that can help me get through some difficult situations I am going through right now.

To me the poem describes the process of thinking that you are finished with one thing you have worked on for a while. Then you come back and look at it, then realize that there are things that you need to revise to make it better. The idea that this piece of poetry describes is important important to me. Your poem has influenced me because recently I have been hurt by a friend and the poem has helped me revise my relationship with my "friend," and figure out how I need to approach things in a different way to make my life easier. I like your poem because it's the actual poem can be connected to the title, but it can also be connected to anybody's life.

The poem that you have written matters to me because it has helped me through hard times. This piece of poetry is important for people to read because it's can teach people that nothing is ever finished because it can always be improved, or it can help get people back on track in their life just like me. Whatever message people get from your poem, whether it's being reminded to go back and work on a painting or something more personal, your poem will affect them in a positive way.

There are some question I would like to ask you as well:

1. How often do you write poems?

2. What inspires you to make poems?

3. What do you like doing the most? Songwriting, writing poems, or writing novels?

Sincerely yours,

Grade 8
Stockton, CA

Dear Nathanael,

Number one, you have a terrific name. Lots of syllables! Delicious.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful note.  I am especially moved by the metaphorical linkage you made between my humble poem’s title and a friendship perhaps being finished as well. I remember, during high school, being profoundly moved by a similar thing—disappearing puddles after a rainstorm, and the disappearance of someone in my life who had felt like a valued friend. I knew the raindrops were still in the air and somehow the care of my friend, now past, would still remain invisibly around in the atmosphere to fortify me for new friendships. The comfort given by metaphor turned out to be quite surprising and helpful in that way.

I write poems as often as I can! But mostly I write lines every day—notes to myself—journal entries—images—having just returned from 2 intense weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland I now have a fat orange notebook crammed with quotes and details and signs and moments…what will I do with them? Remains to be seen… but at least they are there and for sure I can feel 2 or 3 poems hovering amongst all the notes waiting to be shaped…

Everything around me, to which attention is given, is potential inspiration. It has always been that way.

A lace curtain in the window of a room in a very old building in Belfast I will never enter. How much history has passed since that curtain was hung?

A passing face on the street—one momentary flicker of connection.

Cars in the rain on a homesick morning, little splashes around their tires.

A giant white cup of steaming milk with cinnamon sprinkled on top.

I like writing poems the most.

And reading letters from kind people. And reading other people’s poems.

Warmest regards and wishing you lots of good notes all your life,

Naomi Shihab Nye
San Antonio, Texas

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