BOA is excited to share the news that Naomi Shihab Nye has been named the new Young People's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. The title recognizes and celebrates a living writer for their devotion to writing exceptional poetry for young readers. The Poetry Foundation announced the laureateship on their website this morning along with their announcements for the winners of the 2019 Pegasus Awards and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
“As part of our mission, and core to Poetry magazine’s 106-year history, we celebrate the best poetry, and with these awards we honor some of the writers who bring it into the world today,” said Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation. “We’re honored to recognize the lifelong work of Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye’s dedication to young readers, and Terrance Hayes’s reimagination of Etheridge Knight’s body of work.”
Nye is acclaimed as a children’s writer for her sensitivity and cultural awareness, such as in her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (Greenwillow Books, 2002), which was published shortly after September 11, 2001, and invites readers to reflect and explore life as an Arab American. Her recent poetry collections for young adults include Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners and A Maze Me: Poems for Girls.
The Poetry Foundation also notes that “Nye’s writing moves seamlessly between ages in a way that is accessible, warm, and sophisticated even for the youngest of readers.”
In The Tiny Journalist (BOA, 2019), her most recent collection of poetry for adult readers, Nye writes thoughtful, compassionate poems that imagine the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of Janna Jihad Ayyad, a young journalist who lives in the West Bank in a village near Nye's ancestral home.
“From her own understanding and research, her father’s stories and information gleaned from Janna’s posts, Nye creates poetry that imagines the turbulent life of a little girl in a world of war and injustice,” writes reviewer Karla Strand in Ms. Magazine.
Publishers Weekly also praised Nye's work in her new collection, noting in their starred review of The Tiny Journalist how “Nye demonstrates poetry’s ability to vividly portray the lives behind the headlines.”
Naomi Shihab Nye will serve as the Young People's Poet Laureate from 2019 to 2021 and will receive a $25,000 prize from the Poetry Foundation in recognition of her poetry for young people. For her tenure, she aims to to bring poetry to geographically underserved, or rural communities through readings underwritten by the Poetry Foundation. In addition, every month during her tenure, which begins in August, she will recommend a new poetry book for young readers.