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When We are Seen

The author of today's poem, Naomi Shihab Nye, has written many of my favorites. Every time I read "Famous" a different line stands out to me. I found this film adaptation by Motionpoems on their website.

The creators at Motionpoems describe "Famous" as a meditation on the human desire to be seen and the individualized ways in which we define recognition.

Please read the poem first, I'm curious to know what stands out for you. Then watch the film and compare.


By Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to 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.

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men

who smile while crossing streets,

sticky children in grocery lines,

famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.

- This film was created in partnership with Motionpoems.

- "Famous" is from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995. Used with permission of Far Corner Books.

Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995)

- About the Poet: Naomi Shihab Nye is an American poet, editor, songwriter, and novelist. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she began composing her first poetry at the age of six. In total, she has published or contributed to over 30 volumes of poetry.

- Photo Credit: Photo by Chunli Ju on Unsplash

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