Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Keeping Creative Language Alive

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Keeping Creative Language Alive

Article excerpt

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye is frequently asked when did she become a poet.

But to listen to the creative ways young children put together language is to ask instead, when did we stop being poets?

Embracing language and nurturing the creative spirit is behind next weekend's Poetry Life weekend, which is co-sponsored by Bookstore1Sarasota, Florida Studio Theatre, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Sarasota Reading Council.

Nye, an award-winning poet, and W.S. Merwin, former United States Poet Laureate and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, will be on hand for the weekend, working with student poets and teachers.

The two are of different generations but have been dear friends for many years. Nye said she fell in love with Merwin's poems when she was a freshman at Trinity University.

"The very first book I had that contained his poems was an anthology called 'Naked Poetry,' a book that I just carried around until it was so battered up. It was such a relief to me to see an entire collection of American poetry in open form," said Nye, who lives in San Antonio, Tex.

Nye, 61, said her friendship with Merwin was cemented when she and her husband rented a house in Mexico that Merwin had previously owned. When they learned that Merwin and his wife were coming to stay in the same town but in a hotel, they intercepted the Merwins at the airport and asked them to stay at the guest house for several weeks.

"Our friendship was really underscored in that period," said Nye.

Merwin, 85, lives on Maui, where for many years he has worked to restore acres of palm forest around his home. Environmental issues run through many of his poems.

He was Poet Laureate from 2010-2011, and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1971 for his collection, "The Carrier of Ladders" and again in 2009 for "The Shadow of Sirius."

Poetry "has been the central passion of my life since I was 4 years old," said Merwin, "since I could put words down on a piece of paper. …

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