The following is an excerpt of a poem written by Naome Shihab Nye, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952 of a Palestinian father and an American mother. Nye spent part of her childhood in Texas and part in Jerusalem, and that heritage of both the Southwest and the Middle East finds its way into much of her writing.
As you analyze this poem, look not just at what it is saying, but how it is saying it. How do her patterns of sound, her word choices, her rhymes, the length of her lines, etc. influence the way that the reader feels about what she is writing? What does she communicate through means other than words? What background knowledge do you need for this poem to make more sense? If there are references you aren’t familiar with, go use the entirety of human knowledge at your fingertips to do five minutes of research to figure it out! What is the pilgrimage she is talking about? Why the white linen? What is Mecca? And whom does she compare those pilgrims to?
Create a T-chart of your observations and craft a thesis that follows this formula:
“Through the use of (observed patterns and concrete details), Nye (communicates, develops, emphasizes, etc.) (abstract conclusion).
Different Ways to Pray…Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.
When they arrived at Mecca
they would circle the holy places,
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.
While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occured daily,
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,
forgetting how easily children soil clothes….