Photo Credit: Daion Chesney

Amy Shimshon-Santo

b. 1964

Current City, State, Country

Los Angeles, California, USA

Birth City, State, Country

United States


Amy Shimshon-Santo is a poet who believes that creativity is a powerful tool for personal and social transformation. She is the author of Catastrophic Molting (Flowersong Press, 2022), Even the Milky Way is Undocumented (Unsolicited Press, 2020), and the limited edition chapbook Endless Bowls of Sky (Placeholder Press, 2020). Amy has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry and one in creative nonfiction, a Rainbow Reads Award, an Emmy Award for Arts Education (Artbound/PBS So Cal), and was a finalist for the Nightboat Book Poetry Prize. Her poems appear in Prairie Schooner, ArtPlace America, Zócalo Public Square, Entropy, Journal of Writers Project Ghana, Tilt West, Boom CA, Yes Poetry, and more. A poet and essayist, Amy has penned numerous peer-reviewed essays about themes in spatial and educational justice for journals including GeoHumanities; Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice; Imagining America, SUNY Press, UC Press, and the Illinois Open Publishing Network. She edited two books amplifying community voices: Et Al (Co-edited with Genevieve Kaplan for Illinois Open Publishing Network, 2022) and Arts = Education (UC Press, 2010). Amy creates polylingually and translocally. She has performed in global literary festivals including: the Pa Gya! Festival in Ghana, the Lagos International Poetry Festival, UNESCO’s Rumbo Mondiacult in Mexico, UNEB in Bahia, Brazil; Casa de Tiempo, Mexico; and at URACCAN in Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast. In Los Angeles, she has performed poetry at The Los Angeles Public Library, The Sims Library of Poetry, Beyond Baroque, The Autry Museum, Self Help Graphics & Art, Metro Arts, and the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center. Nationally, she has read her poetry at AWP, Book Woman in Texas,  The Hambidge Center in Georgia, Public Arts in Cary, North Carolina, and it lives on Google Arts & Culture. She often performs poems in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and/or Hebrew. Amy co-authored The Ocean Between Us with A’bena Awuku-Larbi Larbi, has translated poems with Patron Henekou (French/English/Ewe), Katleho Kano (English/Sesotho), Nana Asaasse (English/Twi) Gloria Carrera (Spanish/Mazateco), Margarita Leon (Spanish/Otomi), and Teio Xaggat (Spanish/Chinanteco). Her teaching career has spanned research universities, community centers, K-12 schools, arts organizations, and spaces of incarceration. She began her creative career in dance, performance art, and capoeira, touring extensively from California to Singapore, and Dakar to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center for the Arts. Amy earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, a PhD and MA from UCLA in Environmental and Cultural Planning, and a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Latin American Studies). She is the mother of Avila and Reva; the daughter of Bruria and David; the great granddaughter of Frida, Chiam, Reva, and Shloime; the great granddaughter of Berta, Piotr, Bessie, and Shloime Noach; and the great great granddaughter of David, Mordechai, Mira, and Israel.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

I was born and raised in a Jewish family. According to both family history, and DNA analysis, I am 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. I’ve never questioned my Jewish identity, but I am quite aware of the many expressions of Jewish life. My ancestors included communists and hasidim, feminists, activists, and carpenters. I am the first generation of women on my mother’s side to have access to formal schooling, and second generation of women on my father’s side.  My mother is 90 year old feminist visual artist who was born and raised in Jerusalem. She exposed us to conceptual and mystical Jewish thought and symbolism from a young age. Her first languages were Hebrew and Yiddish, and I am still studying with the hope of restoring mother tongue. My father defined being Jewish as understanding oppression, and having compassion for other people who experience oppression. His mother was a devoted community activist who lived her beliefs despite severe harassment under McCarthyism during the Cold War. I found a letter to her in the W.E.B. Dubois archive. Dad was the first to be born in the U.S., and only learned English. Growing up in California pushed me to find communion with people of various cultures and faiths. As a diasporic people, my immediate family now live in Israel, the U.S., Canada, Uruguay, and Brazil. I was once told that Jewish identity is maintained at home, and that being in relationships with non-jewish people meant the end of our identity. I completely disagree. I am now a Jew in an intercultural family. My futures are weaving together Jewish principles, intersectional feminist values, and Afro-Brazilian culture. In other words, my family and social relationships connect Jewish, Black, and Latinx worlds. I aim to live and write in my wholeness.

Published Works

Catastrophic Molting (Flowersong Press, 2022)
Even the Milky Way is Undocumented (Unsolicited Press, 2020)
Endless Bowls of Sky (chapbook; Placeholder Press, 2020)

Collaborative Work
The Ocean Between Us; with A\’bena Awuku-Larbi (CREO & Writers Project Ghana, 2022)

Edited Works
Et Al: New Voices in Arts Management (IOPN, 2022)
Arts = Education (UC Press, 2010)
Elara Moves (Creo Worldwide, 2015)


Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading


University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., Latin American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles, M.A., Environmental Emphasis, Urban Planning
Antioch University, Los Angeles, M.F.A., Creative Writing
University of California, Los Angeles, PhD, Cultural Emphasis, Urban Planning

Subject Matter