Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems by Naomi Shahib Nye, illustrated by Rafael López, 256 pp, RL 3

 

Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems 
illustrated by Rafael López
Review Copy from Greenwillow Books

What is your personal relationship with poetry? I have a mostly love relationship with poetry, starting with Shel Silverstein at the age of ten. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and read even more in college, writing my senior thesis on a book of poetry. I am tempted to say that poetry is best when read out loud and shared, but then I remember reading poetry in solitude, each carefully chosen word and line break captivating me. Everything Comes Next is filled with both kinds of poems - poems best read out loud and best read in solitude. 

When I read a book of poetry published for children ("poetry for children," much like "picture books," are genres that are often assumed to be simple or simplified because they are for children. Poetry for children is so much more than nursery rhymes, in the same way that picture books are more than a few hundred words paired with images) I work to read it from the perspective of a child, leaving behind all that I have learned about the art form, but also with my adult self peering over the child's shoulder to see if they are experiencing what they read, appreciating the words, tasting them and rolling them around in their mouth like a raspberry that has just been picked, warm from the sun and bursting. Understanding the poem is something else. We each experience poems in our own way and we each make our own meaning. If a poem means something to a child after they finish it - even if they can't exactly put to words what it means - that is what I am looking for.

Divided into three sections and starting with "The Holy Land of Childhood," Nye's poems show us how to stop and live in a moment as well as how to look back on that moment and connect it to our lives now. She writes both from the perspective of a child and as an adult looking back on a childhood experience, occasionally writing as a parent of small children. What I love most about Everything Comes Next (besides the small, squarish trim size that lends itself to being carried anywhere and read anytime, held tight and treasured) is that it can be read from cover-to-cover like a novel. The flow of the poems and the voices in each poem draw you along, supported by the groupings of the three sections, the second and third of which are titled, "The Holy Land that Isn't" (focusing on loss, displacement and war, her immigrant father having lost his childhood home in Jerusalem) and "People Are the Only Holy Land." That said, there are many poems that give pause and invite immediate re-readings, especially my favorite poem, also the first in the book. "Come with Me" is one of my favorite kind of poems - it opens a door to a new world, yet it is a size that allows you to take it with you everywhere you go, be it on a piece of paper or in your memory.

Come with Me

To the quiet minute
Between two minutes
It's always waiting ready to welcome us
Tucked under the wing of the day
I'll be there
Where will you be?

Another poem I now carry with me, "Always Bring a Pencil," (Nye's final words in this book are, "I do think writing will help you live your life.") tells readers there are experiences "that prefer to be written about / in pencil. / It gives them more room / to move around." "Yellow Glove," about the loss of a valuable gift and its return, shapes memory and the meaning drawn from it decades later. "Mysterious World," only ten lines long, is rich with the variety of human experience and what we leave behind. "Ted Kooser Is My President" is as beautiful a statement to the power of poetry (and pretty funny.) If you don't know who (Pulitzer prize winning Poet Laureate) Ted Kooser is, click here to hear him read "So This Is Nebraska," and here to read my reviews of two of his picture books.  Of course, "Because of Libraries We Can Say These Things," with the girl who walks home "holding the book close to her body," a book that will give her, "what this town has not given her," a book that has, "already lived through its troubles," is my favorite, especially the final lines:

she will not be alone.
She will have a book to open
and open and open.
Her life starts here.

Everything Comes Next could be the book the girl holds close, a book we all could hold close.

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