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Guest Blogger: Poet Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye, 2005 Over the years, Naomi Shihab Nye has never failed to surprise and delight me. Most recently, she reached out after hearing that BOA was set to publish Light and Heavy Things by the late Pakistani poet Zeeshan Sahil this spring. It turns out that Naomi was friends with Sahil and she was thrilled to hear that BOA would be publishing the first U.S. edition of his work. I asked Naomi if she would be willing to share some thoughts on Sahil and the publication of Light and Heavy Things with our blog readers. Despite her busy schedule, Naomi immediately agreed and sent the below reflections a few days later. Thank you, Naomi, for being our Guest Blogger! –BOA Publisher Peter Conners I was thrilled to learn that BOA will publish Light and Heavy Things by Zeeshan Sahil of Pakistan, translated from Urdu by Faisal Siddiqui, Christopher Kennedy, and Mi Ditmar. Zeeshan was a truly warm and wonderful person, a gracious and welcoming spirit, passionately interested in language and connection. I was privileged to meet him on two different trips to Karachi in the early ’80's and attend local poetry circles (mushairas) and events alongside him and his poetry friends. A candle would be passed around the circle. If it sat in front of you, you were “on” — called upon to share your own poems or other poems you appreciated. Languages mixed and mingled. The mushairas seemed to go on for days. I recall his quick intakes of breath and strong smiles and encouragements in response to other people’s words. He was exuberant, without any airs of self-importance. The word “disabled” certainly shrank and vanished in the presence of his friendly power. Though his road may have been more difficult than many, his lightness of spirit was also larger. So the title of this book feels very appropriate. Later, Zeeshan and I corresponded for years. His letters about poetry and life were always loving and hopeful. I wish he had lived a longer life. We can help give him one by spreading the word about his book. Siddiqui, Kennedy and Ditmar deserve great credit for the intricate labors of translation which have brought this project into being. Kennedy’s fine introduction serves the text perfectly. The Lannan Foundation does such astonishing great work bringing more world voices into English-reading hands. Special thanks to BOA Editions, Ltd. and Peter Conners for caring about Zeeshan Sahil, a radiant, amazing poet who would have loved knowing everyone who will now appreciate his own words. –Naomi Shihab Nye Zeeshan Sahil photo credit Abid Raza Syed A Poem for You The world is the wrong place to live if one has to live forever. Each day life would become more unbearable. But the happiness of riding on the bus with Saiduddin, and the melting wax from the candle burning on your dressing table, and the smoke collecting on your mirror make up for everything. The flowers pressed in my book grow into jungle dreams. Your fingers trace many different paths in the dust on the Formica. And in the city with all the blank street signs when the night becomes darker, your uneasy presence makes the stars unnecessary, the moon redundant, and the sea superfluous. Your memory and the mounting pressure around my heart make me pray. Despite the eternal anger of God toward poets, my prayer always begins with you. –Zeeshan Sahil, Light and Heavy Things (BOA Editions, 2013) Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous books,  including Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011), You and Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), winner of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, Fuel (BOA Editions, 1998), and Red Suitcase (BOA Editions, 1994). Nye gives voice to her experience as an Arab-American through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. About her work, the poet William Stafford has said, “her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life."
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