Distinguished Visiting Writer Naomi Shihab Nye

July 17, 2021
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Introduced by Mary Jo Bang

Award-winning poet, essayist, and educator Naomi Shihab Nye grew up in St. Louis. The Summer Writers Institute is proud to present a unique “virtual homecoming” reading featuring Nye, with an introduction by poet and translator Mary Jo Bang.

An advocate for literature’s power to enrich and transform lives, Nye was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Book Critics Circle in 2020, and was named the 2019-2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Her latest book, Everything Comes Next: Collected & New Poems (2020), gathers 45 years of some of her most acclaimed and inspiring work in one volume.

Mary Jo Bang is the award-winning author of numerous poetry collections and of poetry in translation. Her eagerly anticipated, innovative translation of Dante’s Purgatorio will be published by Graywolf in July.

Nye and Bang share local roots and, several years apart, attended Central Elementary School in Ferguson, Missouri. The Summer Writers Institute is grateful to both of these extraordinary poets for their generous participation in what promises to be an unforgettable evening.


Left Bank Books

This event is presented in collaboration with St. Louis independent bookseller Left Bank Books, founded more than 50 years ago. Books by Naomi Shihab Nye and Mary Jo Bang are both available for online purchase.


About the Authors

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Middle East, Nye uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.

Nye is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes spanning poetry, essays, and anthologies, along with children’s literature and picture books. The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) recognized her contributions to book culture with the 2020 Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates and Studs Terkel. 

Currently serving as Young People’s Poet Laureate for the Poetry Foundation, Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellow. She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” from Poets House, for service to poetry, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her book Cast Away: Poems for Our Time was named one of the Washington Post’s best children’s books of 2020.

Nye has been affiliated with The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin for 20 years, also serving as poetry editor at The Texas Observer for 20 years. In 2019–2020 she was the editor for New York Times Magazine poems.

Naomi Shihab Nye is not only a proud daughter of the St. Louis area, she is also the proud daughter of a Washington University alumna. Naomi’s mother Miriam Naomi Allwardt Shihab attended on a scholarship and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting in 1948. Today Naomi and Miriam both live in San Antonio, Texas. (Photographs courtesy of Naomi Shihab Nye)

She is Chancellor Emeritus for the Academy of American Poets and a laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children’s Literature, and in 2017 the American Library Association presented Nye with the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. In 2018 the Texas Institute of Letters awarded her the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Learn more about Naomi Shihab Nye


Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang is the author of eight books of poems—including Louise in Love, A Doll for Throwing, The Bride of E, The Last Two Seconds, and Elegy, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her translation of Dante’s Inferno, illustrated by Henrik Drescher, was published by Graywolf Press in 2012. Her translation of Purgatorio is forthcoming in July 2021. She has received a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship. She teaches creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis.


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