“The Art of Disappearing” by Naomi Nye

The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Nye (born 1952) is an intensely honest and introspective poem. At first reading, the poem appears decidedly antisocial. But Nye is not railing against diversions like parties, gossip, small talk and other fleeting pursuits. It’s not that you don’t love them anymore, she says. I think her poem is a call for us to rise above the twitter and chatter of social exchanges and to remember there are things of greater substance – like the trees that have always stood in their place and monastery bells that have tolled for millennia. It was Goethe who exclaimed, “I praise what is truly alive.” Nye’s poem, in its own way, calls us to a similar kind of praising.


Naomi Shihab Nye (born 1952) is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she began composing her first poem at the age of six and has published or contributed to over 30 volumes. Nye’s experience of both cultural difference and different cultures has informed much of her work. Known for poetry that lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people, and objects across cultures, Nye has said that “the primary source of (my) poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.”

Nye earned her BA from Trinity University in San Antonio and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her work, including a Lavan Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Carity Randall Prize, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry award, the Robert Creeley Prize, and many Pushcart Prizes. She has also received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and she was a Witter Bynner Fellow. From 2010 to 2015 she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2018 she was awarded the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Institute of Letters. She lives in San Antonia, Texas.

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