story work with naomi shihab nye

Building off of last week’s theme of story work, this week’s poem – “The Story, Around the Corner” by Naomi Shihab Nye – presents another side of stories.

Here, a story takes on human attributes, including free will. The logic of the poem develops the idea of a story as being out of our hands, being made up of “[riffs] of common talk.” This logic then deepens; lines discussing “a city you don’t live in, where people / might shop forever or throw a thousand stories / away” have great yet nuanced implications. The story as entity is a creature of chance and circumstance, much like ourselves.

japan-217882_960_720Because the language remains nonspecific, we are in the position as readers to intuit the “story” of the poem in our own way. It’s the kind of poem I like to meditate on during stressful times because it speaks at a register that is heard before I can resist. Not sure if that make sense. What I’m getting at is that at the end of reading the poem, I am left with my own idea of the “story” knocking and waiting for an answer — and, for a moment, I glimpse what it would it would be like to give one.

The Story, Around the Corner – Naomi Shihab Nye

is not turning the way you thought
it would turn, gently, in a little spiral loop,
the way a child draws the tail of a pig.
What came out of your mouth,
a riff of common talk.
As a sudden weather shift on a beach,
sky looming mountains of cloud
in a way you cannot predict
or guide, the story shuffles elements, darkens,
takes its own side. And it is strange.
Far more complicated than a few phrases
pieced together around a kitchen table
on a July morning in Dallas, say,
a city you don’t live in, where people
might shop forever or throw a thousand stories
away. You who carried or told a tiny bit of it
aren’t sure. Is this what we wanted?
Stories wandering out,
having their own free lives?
Maybe they are planning something bad.
A scrap or cell of talk you barely remember
is growing into a weird body with many demands.
One day soon it will stumble up the walk and knock,
knock hard, and you will have to answer the door.


Happy answering!


3 responses to “story work with naomi shihab nye”

  1. I understand Jose: do you mean its as if the poem knows what you needed to hear before you & so registers that thought for you, sort of?

    1. Yes! And allows for a space where that registering can happen. Jorge Luis Borges talks about how aesthetic expression exists not in the physical object of the book (or screen), nor in the writer or reader, but in the act of writing and reading. This intangible space is where a poem like Nye’s places me, a registering place. Thanks for engaging these concepts, my friend!

      1. It’s kind of like if i need to buy clothes, my wife will say “what are you looking for?” & i’ll say “i don’t know but when i see it i will.”
        My pleasure for chiming in. i wish we could speak more.

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