Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change


Nye, Naomi Shihab




Poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952 to an American mother and a Palestinian father. Known for poetry that lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people, and objects, Nye has said that, for her, “the primary source of poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.” “Trying to Name What Doesn't Change,” published in Words Under Words: Selected Poems in 1995, inspires discussion about what changes, what does not change, and what feelings both change and non-change elicit within us.

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Organizing and ActivismSocial and Political Change

Big Questions

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Why is Roselva watching the train tracks?
  2. Why is she sure that train tracks do not change?
  3. Why isn't Peter sure about this?
  4. What do the observations in the third and fourth stanzas suggest about change?
  5. What does the train whistle take with it when it goes away?
  6. How does Roselva feel about change? How does the narrator feel? How do you feel?
  7. What is subject to change in your life? What does not change?
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