Poet Jean Nordhaus earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Barnard College and a PhD in German literature from Yale University. She is the author of the poetry chapbook A Language of Hands (1982) as well as the collections A Bracelet of Lies (1987), The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn (2002), Innocence (2006), and Memos from the Broken World (2016).
Exploring the dramatic monologue in The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn, Nordhaus depicts the life of Moses Mendelssohn, grandfather of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, through interconnected poems in a variety of voices. In Innocence, Nordhaus’s subjects include friends, relatives, transitional moments in a life, and the roles of mother and daughter. Grace Cavalieri, reviewing Innocence for the Montserrat Review, commented that “complexity is made simple in a speech aloof from the ordinary. Whatever the outer life is or was—we have dignity, detachment and the necessary strength to be autonomous.”
Nordhaus has been the poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s poetry programs and has taught at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She lives in Washington, DC.