Image of a person closing their eyes in the sunlight and taking a

minute to notice

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Dear friends,

In my twenties I saw a therapist for three years. He was the kind of therapist who said nothing about his own life. He shaped a room where I could meet myself. On our last day, however, he spoke. 

I told him how angry I’d been with him the first time I saw him. I’d come along laden with burdens I wanted to solve. But he kept on asking me about poetry. 

Why the hell is he asking me about poetry? I wondered. I asked him that on our last day together and he said he’d always had as much interest in his clients’ gifts as their griefs. I was both a victim of my grief, but also slightly obsessed by it. I was young, yes, but I did need to learn that my love of poetry was a way of noticing, not just an art form.

This week’s On Being is a revisiting of Krista’s conversation with the beloved poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Naomi began writing poetry as a child, and shares a life-long passion for the art, not just as an art-form, but as an art of living. While her craft as a poet is clear, she focuses on how poetry can open the doors of language to everyone. She says that sometimes just one word can be “an oar that could get you through the days just by holding a word, thinking about it differently, and seeing how that word rubs against other words, how it interplays with other words.” 

A few weeks before the interview, Naomi Shihab Nye had been in a class in Austin and a student who was going through a rough time recited a poem she’d written, a poem full of all the voices yelling at her. The poem was so compelling, and read with such energy, that when she finished reciting it, the other students in the classroom broke into “wild applause.” This is the spaciousness that poetry occupies in the imagination of Naomi Shihab Nye; something to cause applause even while you’re just trying to get through. Another encounter with another student — this time in Japan — introduced Naomi to the word yutori - meaning spaciousness

This act of noticing is a thread throughout this conversation: Naomi Shihab Nye speaks of a time of devastation on her honeymoon when she and her spouse were robbed — and a person on their bus murdered — and she was sitting alone, far away from home, and the words of a poem came to her. This became her poem, "Kindness," which she reads in the episode. Ana Pérez López visually interpreted the poem as an offering to our community. 

Commenting on Naomi’s attentiveness to noticing — both in awful moments of personal and national grief, as well as in small moments of simplicity — Krista says “We’re talking about poetry, but we’re also talking about a way of moving through the world.” In the midst of the demands of our life, a few words in a notebook can sometimes be enough. And Naomi Shihab Nye’s attention towards the people in her workshops is a loving demonstration of the art she’s describing. 

In this week’s episode of This Movie Changed Me, host Lily Percy talks with Tony Banout about David Cronenberg’s The Fly. On the surface , this is a horror film about a scientist who accidentally splices his own DNA with that of a fly, gradually — and gruesomely — turning into a human-sized insect. 

But Tony Banout brings attention to a level of The Fly I’d never heard before. (I, like Lily, had watched this movie as a teenager, and have memories of slimy sounds and oversized insect limbs). The scientist, for Tony Banout, is a manifestation of what it’s like to become so obsessed with your project that you abandon your life for the sake of it; and in so doing, imagine yourself with grandiosity along the way. 

Tony Banout is the Senior Vice President of Interfaith Youth Core, and has been involved in social change work all his adult life. His wisdom about The Fly,for fans of the movie, or people who’ve never watched it (or never will), is profound: speaking of the deep passion he has for social change work, he  says, “The dangers of not paying attention to those you’re in relationship with while you’re doing that has the potential of robbing you of something very valuable.” The Fly has been a reminder for him in a life lived with commitment to social change, but also a life lived with a commitment to being present to its fullness, not just his driving passions. 

In all your work, and your griefs, and the demands of being alive, we offer you this week’s episodes as a reminder of the necessary art of noticing. 


Beir bua, 

Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound


P.S. – I’m hosting a Poetry Unbound spinoff, Poetry Unbound +, interviewing poets who make use of religious literature in their artistic work. The first of these four events is an interview with the brilliant poet Mary Karr on zoom this Sunday, March 7. Find more details at the bottom of this newsletter under our Events.  


This Week at The On Being Project

Our Latest Episode

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On Being with Krista Tippett

Naomi Shihab Nye
"Before You Know Kindness As the Deepest Thing Inside..."

"Thinking in poems" whether we know it or not. Why a simple practice of writing can anchor our lives.

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Our Website


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This Movie Changed Me

Tony Banout
The Fly

The dangers of an unchecked ego, and unlikely lessons from watching Jeff Goldblum turn into a six-foot human fly. 

Listen on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Our Website



Listen | Pádraig Ó Tuama interviews Dr. Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland
Pádraig is hosting  a new podcast from Corrymeela, the Irish peace organization. In  the first episode he interviews Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland. Upcoming episodes include poet Gail McConnell, fiddle player Martin Hayes and U2’s The Edge. Look for the Corrymeela podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Watch | ‘Yentl’ Changed Me 
Last weekend we gathered together for a live This Movie Changed Me event about Barbra Streisand’s 1983 movie, Yentl. Host Lily Percy talked with Pádraig and filmmaker Amma Asante (Belle, A United Kingdom) about how the movie was inspirational to each of them, and groundbreaking for its depiction of gender, sexuality, and religion. You can watch the event in its entirety on our YouTube channel. 


Event: Poetry Unbound Plus

Online event image: Poetry Unbound, March-June 2021, A Special

Invitation, a series convened by The On Being Project and Washington

National Cathedral

We’re excited to launch a series of virtual gatherings in partnership with the Washington National Cathedral’s Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage. Please join Pádraig as he interviews poets about their work and how it explores biblical narratives and characters. 

“Poetry Unbound Plus” features conversations with:

Mary Karr on Sunday, March 7, 2021

4:00 - 5:15 pm CST / 5:00 - 6:15 pm EST / 10:00 - 11:15 pm GMT 

David Kinloch on Sunday, April 11, 2021

4:00 - 5:15 pm CST / 5:00 - 6:15 pm EST / 10:00 - 11:15 pm GMT 

Lorna Goodison on Sunday, May 2 , 2021

4:00 - 5:15 pm CST / 5:00 - 6:15 pm EST / 10:00 - 11:15 pm GMT 

Diane Glancy on Sunday, June 6, 2021

4:00 - 5:15 pm CST / 5:00 - 6:15 pm EST / 10:00 - 11:15 pm GMT 

Space is limited to create an intimate virtual gathering. To register, visit and enter “OnBeing” (all one word) in the Special Access Code box below the general search bar, then click “Add Code” to access the event registration pages for each gathering. 

If you are unable to attend or register, recordings of all events will be accessible on The On Being Project’s YouTube channel in the days following each live conversation.


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The On Being Project
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