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Palestinian-American writer set for poetry series

Oklahoma City University will host Palestinian-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye on April 6 for the annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series.

The series, which is free to the public, includes a 10 a.m. reading and conversation and an 8 p.m. reading and Q&A session, preceded by a community open mic at 7 p.m. The events will be held in the Kerr McGee Auditorium of Meinders School of Business at NW 27 and McKinley Avenue.

Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She has spent more than 40 years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspiring students of all ages.

Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Middle East, Nye uses her writing to attest to a concept of shared humanity.

She is the author or editor of several acclaimed books of poetry, collections of essays and fiction books, writing for audiences of both adults and children.

Series director Tracy Floreani expressed excitement about Nye’s return to OCU.

“Naomi Shihab Nye was one of our first poets in the early years of the series, and we’ve been wanting to invite her back for a while,” Floreani said. “At a time of global crises and divisiveness, the timing of her visit couldn't be more perfect. Her public readings are full of warmth and encouragement, even as she engages difficult current events.”

For more information about this series and other literary-focused events at OCU, visit www.okcu.edu/film-lit, call 405-208-5707 or send an email to [email protected].

The Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature is sponsoring the series with support from Oklahoma Humanities in collaboration with the Petree College of Arts and Sciences, the OCU Department of English & Modern Languages, the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain, the Oklahoma Writing Project and Full Circle Bookstore.

More about the poet:

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes. Her books of poetry for adults and children include “19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East” (a finalist for the National Book Award), “A Maze Me: Poems for Girls,” “Red Suitcase,” “You & Yours” (a best-selling poetry book of 2006), “Honeybee” (awarded the 2008 Arab American Book Award in the Children’s/Young Adult category), “Cast Away: Poems for Our Time” (one of the Washington Post's best children’s books of 2020) and many more.

Her collections of essays include “Never in a Hurry” and “I’ll Ask You Three Times, Are You Okay? Tales of Driving and Being Driven.”

Her fiction books for young people include “Habibi,” “Going Going,” “There Is No Long Distance Now” and “The Turtle of Oman,” which was chosen a Horn Book Best Book of 2014, a 2015 Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association and was awarded the 2015 Middle East Book Award for Youth Literature.

Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize and "The Betty Prize" from Poets House for service to poetry, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. In 2011 Nye won the Golden Rose Award given by the New England Poetry Club, the oldest poetry reading series in the country. Her work has been presented on National Public Radio on “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac.” She has been featured on PBS poetry specials including “The Language of Life with Bill Moyers” and also appeared on “NOW with Bill Moyers.”

She is chancellor emeritus for the Academy of American Poets and was named the 2019-2021 Young People's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. In 2020 she was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Book Critics Circle. She has been affiliated with The Michener Center for writers at the University of Texas at Austin for 20 years and teaches creative writing at Texas State University in San Marcos.

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