National Poetry Month — “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Today’s Poetry Conversation took place with Margaret. I’ve known Margaret since she was a baby, and she said she’d be happy to discuss Naomi Shihab Nye’s "Famous" with me.


by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to the silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

Read the rest here.

Margaret read the poem silently twice and then out loud once. She giggled at the parts she thought were funny (which just shows how much more natural insight she had into the poem than I did. I didn’t laugh at all!) And then we discussed.

Margaret said the poem made her think of all the things she takes for granted. The things that function as they’re supposed to but that we don’t pay attention to.

She laughed in two spots. She thought the part that says the loud voice is famous to the silence was funny because of the implication that the silence is all-knowing and didn’t need the loud voice to tell it anything in the first place. And she thought the part about the boots being more famous than the dress shoes was funny because it turns upside down what we normally think about fame.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

I have to admit when I reread the poem, I laughed with that part too. How funny. And clever. AND TRUE!

Margaret said she feels like the poem is saying that the speaker wants to be famous for the simple things, not for accomplishing big things but for fulfilling her purpose. And Margaret said that the writer was made for poetry, so she wants her poetry to connect with people, just like the boot connects with the earth.

WOW. Isn’t that some great insight for a 14 year-old? And guess what? I convinced Margaret to write her own ending for this poem using Nye’s words as a guide. Look at what wonderfulness she came up with (and see if you catch a bit of Margaret’s own humor that made me laugh out loud):

I want to be famous to my parents

Who rejoice at my smiling face,

fighting brothers and sisters at babysitting jobs,

Famous as the one brings peace, and chocolate.

I want to be famous in the way the sun is famous,

Or a kiss, not because it did anything extravagant,

But because its love is constant.

And that, my friends, was a lovely Poetry Conversation to be a part of.

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6 thoughts on “National Poetry Month — “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye

  1. Anonymous

    I smiled

    that you could bring that out of my daughter! I want you to be famous for helping Margaret be all that she can be!

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