The title of Naomi Shihab Nye's recent book of poems -- "Hugging the Jukebox" -- suggests songs that roll through the night air and the warmth of a shared experience.
Nye, winner of the 1981 National Poetry Series, will read and sing at the Barns at Wolf Trap tonight and tomorrow as part of the WORD/SONG series. She'll do selections from "Jukebox" and an earlier collection titled "Different Ways to Pray," as well as performing songs and accompanying herself on guitar.
"I like both reading and singing," says the St. Louis-born poet, who has lived for the last 15 years in Texas. "They're very different. Poems have a more prescribed form; you can get away with more in a song, you can be more emotional. Maybe that's why I've chosen to do both. I'm still not sure of the process, of why something becomes a poem or a song, but I always know which is which; I never go back and forth between one or the other. And I never take a poem and set it to music. They're just two very separate things to me."
Nye, whose father is Palestinian and whose mother is American, has spent the last nine years as Poet-in-the-Schools in San Antonio. And just as her own work celebrates local life and "our own ancestry sifting down to us through smaller tasks," her school role is to draw out the everyday wonder from the children. "I try to get them to do what I do in my work, to discover the things that are meaningful to them, small, specific things, and in the process to unearth their own history and make discoveries as they go along. I want them to see that their own lives are their most valuable resource."