Obituaries

Edith Shiffert, 101, poet was inspired by nature

NEW YORK — Edith Shiffert, an American poet whose work was profoundly influenced by the half-century she spent in Japan, died March 1 in Kyoto, where she had long made her home. She was 101.

Her death, announced on the website Writers in Kyoto, was not publicized outside Japan. Ms. Shiffert, who had dementia, had been in a nursing home for about a decade, her American publisher, Dennis Maloney, said Friday.

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The author of nearly two dozen volumes of poetry, Ms. Shiffert was published in The New Yorker and — at midcentury, when newspapers routinely printed poems — in The New York Times and elsewhere. She was also known as a writer on, and translator of, Japanese poetry.

Ms. Shiffert was a quiet sensualist, her verse characterized by spare simplicity and a deep, abiding affinity with the natural world. Her poems were inclined to be short (she was keenly influenced by haiku), and were often organized around unobtrusive rhyme or half-rhyme, the prosodic device in which two words are united by a shared final sound.

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A native of Toronto, Ms. Shiffert moved often in her childhood and began writing poetry in her teens. An adventurous young woman, she lit out for Hawaii in 1938, remaining until 1945.

She married Steven Shiffert and over time lived in Hawaii, Alaska, California, and in a log cabin they built in the Washington state wilderness. She studied at the University of Washington, where her teachers included the poet Theodore Roethke.

She moved to Kyoto in 1963 and taught English at colleges there.

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Ms. Shiffert’s marriage to Shiffert ended in divorce in 1970; she was married to Minoru Sawano from 1981 until his death in 2004.

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