Monday, February 26th, 2018...9:42 pmVictoria

“Praying For Wind” by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Notice 10 things:

  1. Immediately presents a subject, “he”
  2. “Fanning the fire” alliteration and imagery contrasts with “the snow in his voice”
  3. Oppressive and angry diction: “crushed”, “blurs”, “merges”
  4. “He says the news is all made up”: angry not at the news, but at the falsity of it? Or in denial about the truth and/or perceived truth?
  5. “a hundred men twist and turn their tiny tools”: alliteration. Also, these “tiny tools” create things much larger than themselves, for example, biases that affect perspectives and actions
  6. Repetition of “he’s staring”: he stares at everything negative, but not his wife’s golden scarf that would be considered beautiful. The rest of the objects or places he stares at are bland or things that seam into something else.
  7. Description breaks into conversation
  8. Anger through loss
  9. “‘If you start from a world like that, the rest of your life you’re looking for it'”: never recovering the life you used to have, all that remains are memories and longing
  10. “Sometimes we watch our fathers with the same quietness”: although their upbringings and childhood may be different, their parents’ experience is similar and this draws them together


The title “Praying For Wind” immediately signals a desire for change, the wind symbolizing change. The word “praying” suggests that the change is not within one’s control to produce. People rarely pray for things that they themselves can alter; if you are praying, it means what you are asking for is something significant and something that requires supernatural effort and intervention.


The occasion seems to be that the speaker is meeting with their uncle or older family member? The “he” in the poem is certainly a family member, and since the speaker asks him about her father and then talks about her cousins, I assume that the “he” is the speaker’s uncle. I think that in the poem the setting is America and they are reflecting on what they have lost by leaving the Middle East. The setting for part of the poem is in the speaker’s uncle’s apartment, with the speaker and the uncle having a heated conversation that is both angry and sad, not so much at each other but at their shared situation.


I would say the main break is on page 74 with the stanza,

“Sometimes when I walk in the door

of his apartment,

bits of Kleenex stuck to the carpet

from all those kids,

I can’t believe it hasn’t blown away.”

The first part of the poem before this stanza seems to be introducing the scenario and the “he” that is characterized later on. After this stanza on page 74, almost every other stanza begins with “he” or in some way describes his emotions or personality. Also, this break in the poem is a break in his emotions as well. Before the break, his anger is the main focus and is all that the reader sees of him. This could be symbolic of him only seeing his anger as well. However, after the break, the reader sees that actually his anger is disguised sadness.

1 Comment

  •   Professor Seiler
    March 5th, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    Victoria–really nice job on this poem, which is such large part about a practice of faith that seems to elude the poet, but which she respects. I wonder if you might want to ask NSN about the line you quote in #9 and/or about her poems’ multivocal quality.

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