New York, NY (December 19, 2018)—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that the most popular poem in 2018 by a contemporary poet on Poets.org was “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye. More than 250,000 individuals read or viewed the poem online in the past twelve months.
The poem reads in part:
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
“In a time in our society that feels too frequently unkind, I am very touched that people feel this poem speaks to them. It is a reminder that no one is a stranger in this world. I have never felt I ‘wrote’ the poem. I have always felt that it was given to me when I needed it, after we were robbed on a night bus in Colombia, and someone else on that bus, the Indian man mentioned in the poem, was murdered. This poem seemed spoken across the air of a downtown patio in Popoyan by a woman’s ethereal very calm voice after a male passerby asked us gently, ‘What happened to you?’ He gave us nothing, did nothing for us, but listened, then said, ‘Lo siento,’ shaking his head sadly, and walked on. I wrote down what I heard. All I had was the little notebook and pencil in my back pocket, and I was alive,” said Naomi Shihab Nye.
“It’s uplifting to know that a poem about having compassion for one another was the most sought-out contemporary poem this past year. The popularity of ‘Kindness’ reinforces the fact that reading poems can be a hope-giving experience,” said Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets.
About Naomi Shihab Nye
Nye, born to a Palestinian father and American mother, is the author of numerous books of poems, including The Tiny Journalist (BOA Editions), which is forthcoming in 2019; Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011); You and Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award; and 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (Greenwillow Books, 2002). Her honors include awards from the International Poetry Forum and the Texas Institute of Letters. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is the largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. The organization produces Poets.org, the world’s largest publicly funded website for poets and poetry; National Poetry Month; the popular Poem-a-Day series; American Poets magazine; Teach This Poem and other award-winning resources for K-12 educators; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. In addition, the Academy of American Poets coordinates a national poetry coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.