Nancy Shiffrin 

Nancy Shiffrin is a poet, critic and teacher. She earned her MA studying with Anais Nin. She earned her PhD at The Union Institute studying Jewish-American Literature. Her work has won awards and honorable mentions from The Academy of American Poets, The Alice Jackson Foundation, The Poetry Society of America, The Pushcart Prize and The Dora Teitelbaum Foundation. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Canadian Jewish Outlook, Religion and Literature, Humanistic Judaism, New York Quarterly, earths daughters, and numerous other periodicals. Her books are THE HOLY LETTERS (poems), MY JEWISH NAME (essays), and her most recent publication:  THE VAST UNKNOWING. Through "Creative Writing Services," her literary arts consultancy, she helps aspiring writers achieve publication and personal satisfaction. She teaches English at Los Angeles Valley College.  Website: 

once I might have imagined ancient architects
laborers hauling boulders from a distant quarry
musicians crafting piccolos to mimic the wren
now I  marvel at eons of erosion
sculpting broken terrace walls
climbers challenge sheer slopes
ravens rile picnickers  demands of
students and colleagues not yet expunged
air suffocating  I search for shade
the trees themselves
spiky bursts on bare twisted limbs
offer no shelter
I burrow between towering rock piles
read how monzogranite pushed up
from the molten core making oblong blocks
water percolated into cracks
transforming clay to sparkling quartz
a breeze drifts through my small valley
hornets buzz  rattlers rustle the underbrush
a lizard lies motionless on his slab
climbers picnickers colleagues students
voices fade almost to silence
sudden shift of shadow  sunlight ignites
green courses through my cells
I am grateful to live like the desert fan palm
tiered leaves dancing as wind intensifies
thriving on fire
on rare gifts of water at the fault line
desiring only what the hard earth yields
first published by The San Gabriel Valley Poetry Review. 

The Crone curled up in the doorway
is gracious when I plead “sorry
I can’t spare any change I just put
my last ten dollars into the hat at a poetry reading”
“That’s OK honey” she reassures me
“the dude probably earned his dough”
she turns her back against the slanting drizzle
we don’t debate the new aesthetic
The Poet howling his song of self
describing heavy metal’s throb
Friday nights with Black Sabbath
his lusty glee as he trumpets despair
the date who walks ten paces ahead of him
into a party flirts with better-looking men
spills barbecue sauce all over his fine white shirt
he explains the difference between a poem and a joke
does not correct the kid who calls out
“Wordsworth! you know that guy the first
to have his complete works posted on the internet
“Henry not Wadsworth his sleep poems
now that’s poetry for me” 
I think of the editor who rejects my work
“not bad” he admonishes “just not our aesthetic
read our website more carefully”
suddenly I sit at my Zeyde’s Passover table
drunk on the harsh rhythms of Hebrew
I dance the lindy   Elvis belts out Hound Dog
there’s a symphony of street games  paddy cake
who stole the cookie  ring-a-levio one-two-three
Anais appears in her burgundy dress
framed by fern and bougainvillea whispers
“you only owe the world YOUR art”

I kneel beside my sleeping oracle
inhale her musk along with the rain
she gathers her blanket with a soft mewling sound
whose mother is she? whose lover? whose child?
I recite the blessing I neglected
in my haste to sign up to read
come my friend let us welcome the Sabbath Queen
make the gesture for lighting candles
and I wonder if anyone can
pinpoint the precise moment when
“aesthetic”  became a bullshit word

first published by

         A MIRACLE

not the window itself 
         golden circle radiating  ruby  sapphire  emerald
but its precise duplication on the wall adjacent
         the light  waving  bending  its mystery suggested
                  a second time  in a quilted sunburst over the altar
the shimmer in the air  the Woman  chest rising
         as she offers  her weaving  deep purple the woof  the warp
                  green for the earth she loves

the shine on our cheeks for the Child
         still teasing tides  churned down into the bright foaming
as if sun pouring through dark waters 
         the Woman's arms  the jewelled panels etched in concrete
                  had opened  embraced us
as if the Architect knew
         how we might breathe here

available from


Poet Nancy Shiffrin

wide spectrum of poetry from Nancy Shiffrin...
One of her main questions is Who are we?
What made us that person?

'She explores a number of sources
of our identity....(in the poem) “My Shoah”
she brings together many of her disparate
threads­family,  religion, evil details from her
 personal history­and makes them work
 together. When she is at her best, as in
this poem, Shiffrin produces deep powerful

G. Murray Thomas,

© 2008 Nancy Shiffrin

  MOONDAY HOME PAGE (Current Features)  
MOONDAY (Previous Features)  
                             MOONDAY (Upcoming Features)