Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine for Ernest Mann by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye's Valentine is a clever and moving explication of poetry. She takes a strong stance in the age old debate on whether poems are like tacos.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.


Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952 to a Palestinian father and an American mother. A good deal of her poetry focuses on her life as an Arab American. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a glorious way to think of the world: turn it slightly in the light and discover its new identity. Thanks for this.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"in the bottom of our shoes.."

"the person you almost like, but not quite"

Great lines. Thanks for showing me this one.

Ellen in Lawrence, KS

10:38 AM  
Blogger Hedy Esmail said...

I'm a fine artist who had made a series of landscapes on ceiling last month and wrote some words next to the digital imagery.
However, this is the best statement I've come across to describe the feeling of the moment when I was making the photos... allow me to quote the beautiful words and express my gratitude to you of showing me this.
The whole thing makes me feel less alone.

http://hedyesmail.Imagekind.com/Heartscape

1:08 PM  
Blogger xvdash said...

The poem is so life teaching and there's more in the poem then the heading of the poem itself, there's no doubt why it chosen as poem of the week. I would like you to sent me life teaching poem such as this one to my account xvdash@yahoo.com

1:42 PM  
Blogger Trent said...

i met naomi shihab nye about a month ago. she's amazing! great poem!

5:08 AM  
Blogger Amber said...

This is one of my all-time favorite poems. Great Choice!

3:49 PM  
Blogger Unduly Amplified said...

Yes. I love this poem. It was how I discovered Naomi Shihab Nye. A line from her poem "The Art of Disappearing" sometimes floats into my mind: "nod briefly and become a cabbage".

4:20 PM  
Blogger £x± OutCast said...

This poem gave me a new perspective on things in life. A skunk seems kind of corny,, but to someone else it could be beautiful. That changed a lot of my thinking. But I have a question. Who is Ernest Mann. If you happen to know who he is, please send an email to this account: niner9niner@yahoo.com.

Thank you!

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was told to do a report for school and have the same question: Who is Ernest Mann? Is he the guy who told her, "Here's my address, write me a poem"?

12:16 AM  
Blogger £x± OutCast said...

Hey, ya I found the answer thingie. In the poem, it said somewheres that the man was a SERIOUS man. It said that several times. Why he did that look, what's another word for Serious: EARNSEST!! so it's EARNEST MANN. This poem is written to all people that are ernest. But it was all started with that guy passing the note that gave the author the idea of that poem.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

THIS POEM SUCKS CUZ IT HAS NO MEANING AND NAOMI CAN SUCK COCK!

7:48 PM  
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