REVIEW: WCBN Radio live broadcast: Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye speaks live with WCBN Radio!

Self proclaimed “wandering poet,” Naomi Shihab Nye, wandered into Ann Arbor and landed at The Work Gallery on Wednesday night. A comfortable audience gathered in the space to hear the recently published writer dish it out with WCBN Radio talk show host T. Hetzel. T. Hetzel’s regular spot is a literary commentary called “Living Writers,” where she chats with exactly that: living artists of the literary world. Naomi Shihab Nye is the year’s Zell Distinguished Poet in Residence and has been in Ann Arbor all week, beginning with a packed reading on Monday night at the UMMA. In the broadcast, the poet discussed her writing process, her inspirations, and her vision as well as sharing snippets from her most recently published work “Transfer.

Never having read her work before, I perused the merchandise at the front of the gallery during the broadcast, dipping into Shihab Nye’s collection of poetry and other writings. With one ear on the conversation and one eye on the page, I got a crash course in this woman’s work. The detail of her characters jumped to life  while the author made real time commentary for her interview. The immigrant story of her father moving to Texas (because it’s in the middle of the two coasts, must be close to both right? Wrong) and the way he connected her to their Palestinian roots, was a colorful influence on her work. Also, she wrote of taking flight–birds and bird watching. My favorite poem, the title of which now escapes me, was one of these. It was short; three lines only, arranged artfully on the page. In a few succinct words, it pointedly conveyed the feeling of lying in the grass and cloud gazing with friends, but failing to see the bird everyone else spots and yet pretending to be able so as not to feel estranged.

Of all the pieces of advice that Shihab Nye dispensed in her interview (to writers—and non writers alike), the two I found most pronounced  were these: Find a time of day that allows for the most creativity for you. For Shahib Nye, it is morning, because of the solitude and “privacy” of the still-sleeping world. And, it is nearly criminal to not carry around a notebook. Always carry around a notebook! You never know when you’ll meet a stroke of genius. Always be prepared to capture it.

I highly recommend getting a hold of a piece of Shihab Nye’s poetry. It is accessible yet complex, familiar and yet unique.

These live WCBN performances are very worthwhile events! (the evening was complete with a jazzy interlude by School of Music students Kirsten Crey and Pat Booth). My friend, Bennett Stein, has been spearheading these live radio broadcasts at The Work Gallery, so if you missed this one, keep your eyes open for the next. The events are In the mean time, tune into T. Hetzel’s Living Writers series: every Wednesday at 4:15, WCBN FM Ann Arbor 88.3 FM. Now she has got a radio voice.