What Have You Lost?

by Naomi Shihab Nye and Michael Nye

"Once a class of unruly students came into sudden, clear focus when I entered the... read more

"Once a class of unruly students came into sudden, clear focus when I entered the room and said, 'What have you lost? Write it down,' " Naomi Shihab Nye writes in her superb introduction to this challenging, compelling anthology. "The lists were long and haunted." One of the most universal of human experiences is surely this sense of emptiness and absence we know as loss. It can be a feeling contained in a moment or single object, or as overwhelming and achingly large as childhood, memory, innocence, hope, death, or even what never was. In this collection of over 125 poems, some of them the first published work of their authors and others the words of well-known poets, Nye gathers together perspectives on loss and frames them with her title question. It is a question that is like an arrow in the heart, sure and straight and true, and it will pierce young adults with its honesty. It also provides a point of entry into more challenging poems in this anthology at the same time it is surely an invitation to self-reflection. These are moving, often remarkable poems, full of the mystery and wonder that fine poetry inevitably inspires. And the theme of loss, distilled to its most intense essence in poetry, becomes something strangely life affirming--each voice that speaks out from the pages is that of a survivor. Indeed, in the book's later pages, the question "What have you found?" is also posed, acknowledging the hope that can eventually emerge from the center of sadness or sorrow. Spaced throughout this collection are evocative black-and-white photographic portraits taken by Michael Nye. The unidentified individuals who look out from the pages are faces young and old, dark and light, and each is an unknown poem or story. What have you lost? the reader wonders of each one, with the ever-growing realization that this is a question that is part of the very essence of who they--and all of us--are. Notes on the contributors include brief comments by each one on loss. Indexes of poems, poets and losses (meant as "a partial compass, another way to scout among these poems and their vast territories," writes Nye) round out this fine collection. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000

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