Invoking Anais Nin by Nancy Shiffrin

Anais Nin photo
Anais Nin

This page is dedicated to the memory of the late Anais Nin.  I received my Master's Degree in English Literature in 1977 studying with Anais Nin.  She has had a profound influence on my work, and on women's creativity.  Celebrate is the poem I wrote shortly before her death, when I learned about what was to be her final illness from cancer.  It was published by The Los Angeles Times in 1981 and is reprinted in  THE VAST UNKNOWING.
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CELEBRATE for Anais Nin

in the hills I learn the design
the lizard outside my door
has different markings each year the same tissue
flame terrorizes brush strips ravines
cleanses the small animal population
I mourn quail and rabbits I've fed
fire part of the plan

the wild cells baffling your armor
aspects of the scheme
stain them   adjust the lens
see how they multiply
jewels blossoming in your marrow
these homely parasites will devour your high cheek
your graceful step child-woman air will disappear
I weep do not despair
we are one cell -- you I lizard rabbit quail

bequeath me your wigs
orange and yellow   bobbed and fringed
I will comfort your falling hair


"I write to reconstruct awareness, to rehabilitate it.  The years have passed in a dream, the years since I lay on the bed in the guesthouse, lay with my brother, the bees a symphony outside, counterpoint to my moans, my little high-pitched scream in my moment."  So begins the novella, OUT OF THE GARDEN, which I wrote for my Master's Thesis in Anais Nin's class.  About my work Anais Nin wrote:  "Nancy Shiffrin's work has been of the highest professional and artistic quality.  During our eight months of study, she produced a book of poems, each one of which had been reworked and polished to perfection.  She also wrote an unusual novel about the emerging sexuality of a brother and sister in an almost archetypal nuclear family.  The novel has a haunting, compelling quality, produced by Shiffrin's hypnotic prose rhythms.  Point of view in the novel moves from character to character in a masterful way, making this work one among several in the vanguard of what Sharon Spencer has called 'the archetectonic novel'.  Shiffrin proved herself to be a dedicated, committed, talented writer."  Chapter VI was published in StoneCloud Magazine, by a consortium of colleges and universities, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  I will be publishing the entire revised work along with an essay in a future collection.

In 2003, I gave a workshop in which I discussed Anais Nin's influence.  About my workshop Dianna Henning wrote, "Nancy Shiffrin did a workshop and reading in Susanville, California through the Lassen County Arts Council and the Thompson Peak Writers' Workshop ... which I facilitate.  The workshop was enormously interesting and Nancy engaged the participants in a way that led them to want to read, discover more of Anais Nin's work.  The workshop was well attended and well organized.  Nancy obviously did a great deal of research and study before presenting her materials..."  Dianna Henning, October 2004.  Here's an excerpt from a long poem which gives a sense of the workshop...


Wind stops   Silence opens
I reminisce about the long winding road up
to Anais's home in Silver Lake
shyly ringing the doorbell   Anais answering
diaphanous dress revealing fragile body
my shock at her platinum wig
I had been told she had cancer
was enduring chemo and radiation
would not be teaching very long
I sat in her mauve living room
-- me a bromeliad among the roses --
gazed out onto the Japanese garden
and Anais listened
to a Homemaker from Ohio haunted
by two neighbor women who shared a house
and could never declare their love
begin and end with the dream


Now I experience Anais Nin as a continuing presence in my own life always returning me to my own sources.


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

by Nancy Shiffrin  THE VAST UNKNOWING.
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To find out more and/or to order books, contact me at
1112 Montana Avenue #636 Santa Monica CA 90403  310.302.1107

Copyright © 2010 Nancy Shiffrin, PhD.  All rights reserved.

Nancy Shiffrin, PhD - Creative Writing Services - poet, critic, journalist, fiction writer, teacher
Nancy Shiffrin, PhD
poet, critic, journalist,
fiction writer, teacher