19 Varieties of Gazelle

Title: 19 Varieties of Gazelle
Author: Naomi Shihab Nyer
Pub Date: 1994
Pages: 142
Genre: Poetry, Middle East

"We need poetry for nourishment and for noticing, for the way language and imagery reach comfortably into experience, holding and connecting it more successfully than any news channel we could name." (xvi)
19 Varieties of Gazella is a book of poetry written about the middle east: the struggles, the food, the beliefs, but mostly the people. I think that this is more "my kinda" poetry book. Each poem is vivid, but not embedded in so many poetic devices that my mind wanders trying to decipher its meaning.

I only wish that I knew more about the Middle East. I think that it would have made an already enjoyable book moreso.

Trenches and Moats and Mounds of Dirt

An ancient world thick as fleece and layered grape,
stone stacked into walls on hillsides,
the neat lineage of orchards . . .
even now in shuttered rooms
silver needles pulling thread till
a bird rises from cloth
to fly in circles
over a scene she does not

Where is her nesting place,
the safe slot between branches?

There is a language
between two languages
called Mean but who will admit
they are speaking it?

"Let's change places," the teenagers said.
"For a week, I'll be you and you be me."
Knowing if they did, they could never fight again.

Listen to them.


Also, if you're interested in perusing more, check it out here.

I believe that I picked up this book because of Amanda over at Zen Leaf. I think she read and recommended it? I don't know, I am terrible at remembering where I hear about books and too lazy to come up with a system, no matter how easy it might be.


  1. I'm so glad you read this!! I haven't read it yet, but I've talked about it and I went to one of Nye's poetry readings last year and posted about it. Her poetry seems like the sort I can understand, too. I wanted to buy this book last year at the reading, but didn't hve any money on me, so I got it right after christmas. I should get to it soon!

  2. What a wise and wonderful poem! I love Nye's poetry. One of my favorites is A Valentine for Ernest Mann and the first line is "you can't order a poem like you order a taco..."

    Thanks for the heads up on this anthology!


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