Krista Tippett's conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye is one of the On Being conversations that I have listened to multiple times. Listening this time around it was this part about "living with spaciousness" that stuck with me the most...
MS. TIPPETT: Well, so — I’m very interested in general in this question of what poetry works in us. But I think even that question itself holds the implication that poetry is something separate, something distinct. But it seems that, in your sensibility, you see it as very organic. I mean, there’s — I think it was in some of your writing for poems by children, you said, “I do think that all of us think in poems.”
MS. SHIHAB NYE: I do. I do think that. And I think that is very important, not feeling separate from text, feeling sort of your thoughts as text or the world as it passes through you as a kind of text. The story that you would be telling to yourself about the street, even as you walk down it, or as you drive down it, as you look out the window, the story you would be telling — it always seemed very much to me, as a child, that I was living in a poem, that my life was the poem. And in fact, at this late date, I have started putting that on the board of any room I walk into that has a board.
I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, “You are living in a poem.” And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class. But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that. “What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When? All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?” And I’d say, “No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.” And they liked that.
And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years. She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called ‘yutori.’” And it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around. Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her.
But one of them was — and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently. And I just love that. I mean, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years. I should have studied Japanese. [laughs] Maybe that’s where all our answers are. In Japanese.