MOYSHE-MORTKHE SHAFIR (M. M. SHAFFIR) (January 3, 1909-1988)
A poet, he was born with the surname Shekhter in Shots (Suceava), Bukovina. He attended religious elementary school and completed a five-class high school in Czernowitz. In 1930 he landed in Canada, performed various trades, and from 1943 worked as a teacher in Jewish schools. From 1928 he published poetry and literary critical articles in: Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz sheets); Tsukunft (Future), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Forverts (Forward), Afn shvel (At the threshold), Getseltn (Tents), and Svive (Environs) in New York; Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) in Tel Aviv; Montreoler heftn (Montreal notebooks) and Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; and Vokhnblat (Weekly newspaper) in Toronto; among others.
His poetry collections include: A stezhke (A pathway) (Montreal, 1940), 192 pp.; Ikh kum aheym (I’m coming home) (Montreal, 1963), 210 pp.; Af mayn fidele, lid (On my fiddle, a poem) (Montreal, 1966), 80 pp.; Der shtern-vogn (The dipper) (Montreal, 1968), 80 pp.; A rege dakhtenish (A moment of fantasy) (Montreal, 1969), 72 pp.; Boyre mine khaloymes (Creator of varieties of dreams) (Montreal, 1971), 99 pp.; Mit der lider-torbe (With my bag of songs) (Montreal, 1973), 111 pp.; In mayn gefalnkeyt (In my distress) (Montreal, 1975), 110 pp.; Mit tsugenaygte reyd (With words of endearment) (Montreal, 1977), 106 pp.; Di fleyt fun mayne beyner (The flute of my bones) (Montreal, 1978), 94 pp.; Di lipn fun mayn troyer (The lips of my sadness) (Montreal, 1979), 108 pp.; Fir eyln elntkeyt (Four ells of solitude) (Montreal, 1980), 105 pp.; A rege ru gefinen (To find a moment of rest), poetry (Montreal, 1981), 118 pp.; Bay der kholem-multer (At the trough of dreams) (Montreal, 1984), 86 pp.; Ikh dank dir, lider (I thank you, poetry) (Montreal, 1985), 101 pp. His pen names would include: M-M, Sh-r, M. M. Shekhter, and Ben-Khayim.
“Shafir’s principal virtue,” wrote Yankev Glatshteyn, “lies in his [linguistic] possessions…. His originality lies in the richness of his language…. It is not true, however, as one may be deluded about Shafir, that he is a folk poet. He is in his realm a master. Yet, a poem must also contribute more than language…[and in his thoughtful poems], M. M. Shafir’s verse becomes too superficial, and it begins to eclipse his language.” After the first “two decades [of his creative work],” noted Shloyme Bikl, “Shafir the poet receded a a considerable way along the path into himself, I believe, to being an individualist poetry.”
Sources: Kalmen Marmor, in Morgn frayhayt (New York) (August 28, 1940); Y. Varshavski (Bashevis), in Forverts (New York) (February 1964); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Pinkes far der yidisher literatur un prese (New York) 1 (1965), p. 241; Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv, 1965), pp. 113-17; Yitskhok Paner, Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 69 (1970); Yankev Glatshteyn, In der velt mit yidish, eseyen (In the world with Yiddish, essays) (New York, 1972), pp. 115-20; special Shafir issue, Afn shvel (New York) (May-July 1974).
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 516-17, 554.]