19 Varieties of Gazelle

19 Varieties of Gazelle

I found 19 Varieties of Gazelle, by Naomi Shihab Nye, just sitting on the new arrivals table at Pioneer Book. Just sitting there. All alone. No friends. Poor poetry book. I’ll give you a home.

This is a beautiful collection of poetry about life as an Arab – in America, in the Middle East, from America visiting the Middle East – as well as some poems about the seeming inability for Israelis and Arabs to get along, despite their shared humanity. It is thought-provoking without being unnecessarily edgy, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for some good poetry or human understanding, especially older children or teenagers.

As always, I’ll provide a sample poem:

Trenches and Moats and Mounds of Dirt

An ancient world thick as fleece and layered grapes,
stones stacked into walls on hillsides,
the neat lineage of orchards…
even now in shuttered rooms
silver needles pulling thread till
a bird rises from the cloth
to fly in circles
over a scene she does not

Where is her nesting place,
the safe slot between branches?

There is a language
between two languages
called Mean but who will admit
they are speaking it?

“Let’s change places,” the teenagers said.
“For a week, I’ll be you and you be me.”
Knowing if they did, they could never fight again.

Listen to them. ◊


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