“Sincerely” is a cleverly constructed seventy-nine-line poem about the art and craft of letter writing. Its author, inspired by her Palestinian American heritage and extensive travels to Asia, the Middle East, and Central America, considers correspondence from friends, family, and strangers a fascinating subject. She begins the six-part poem by describing envelopes as “usually white and slim,/ bleached as a shell we might press to our ears.” Letters, she suggests, are full of mystery, humor, pathos, and joy. Within the first few lines, Naomi Shihab Nye poses several thought-provoking questions about letters: What are their unique shapes and sizes? Where do they travel in their long journey from one place to another? What do they bring us? Most important, what do they demand from us?
As if to illustrate the answers, Nye shares brief portions of five letters, each presumably a response to an earlier epistle. The first begins “Thank you. The articles about raising children/ arrived when my child was being very difficult.” Sometimes letters come with much needed advice. Unfortunately, in this particular case the narrator lost the parenting articles before she could put their helpful hints to use. Nevertheless, because she is grateful for the kind gesture, in return she encloses a brochure listing places to buy Hawaiian clothing in Texas, “should you have a need.” With this exchange Nye humorously illustrates that letters provide an avenue for...
(The entire section is 523 words.)