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Korn, Rachel Häring

KORN, RACHEL HÄRING

KORN, RACHEL HÄRING (1898–1982), Yiddish poet. Korn was born on the farming estate of "Sucha Gora" (Dry Mountain) near Podliski, East Galicia, the eldest of three children and an only daughter. Her family on both sides had owned and managed farmland for several generations. Growing up on an isolated farm in an area with very few Jewish families, she peopled her world with the living things around her and began to write poetry. Her elementary education was mainly in Polish, the language of her household. When World War i broke out, her family fled to Vienna. They returned to live in Przemysl from 1918 to 1941.

Korn's first publications were in Polish in 1918, in Nowy Dziennik, a Zionist newspaper, and in Glos Przemyski, a socialist journal, but she switched to Yiddish in the wake of pogroms in Poland after the war. She had been taught to speak, read, and write Yiddish by her husband, Hersh Korn, a Left Labor Zionist. In 1919 she published her first Yiddish poem in the Lemberger Tageblatt and was a steady contributor to Yiddish literary journals and newspapers over the next two decades. With the publication of her early volumes of poetry, Dorf ("Village," 1928) and Royter mon ("Red Poppies," 1937), and her first collection of stories, Erd ("Land," 1936), she was recognized as an accomplished and original writer. The profusion and directness of her nature imagery, the dramatic confrontations of village life as she pictured it, and the intensity of her love poetry were all new to Yiddish literature.

When the Germans invaded eastern Galicia in June 1941, Korn and her daughter escaped into the Soviet Union. Korn's husband, her mother, her brothers and their families all perished in the war. Korn fled to Uzbekistan, then until the war ended lived in Moscow, where the leading figures in the world of Soviet Yiddish culture (Bergelson, Markish, Mikhoels, Der Nister) welcomed her as a colleague. Korn and her daughter returned to postwar Poland in 1946, but took refuge in Sweden and in 1948 immigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal.

The dislocation, loss, and anguish of those years are evident in her first postwar collection of poems, Heym un heymlozikayt ("Home and Homelessness," 1948). In her earlier work she spoke for the helpless and neglected. She now saw herself as an eternal debtor, with the obligation to speak for the Jewish people who perished in the war. In later volumes, like Fun Yener Zayt Lid ("On the Other Side of the Poem," 1962), she wrote of a new dependence on the "the word," on the poem itself, which supplanted the home she lost. She also moved on from narrative to a tighter, meditative lyric. This change in style enabled her to generalize her own experience of loss, to use it as a symbol of Jewish experience.

In all, Korn published eight volumes of poetry and two collections of fiction. She was awarded numerous prizes, among them the Manger Prize of the State of Israel (1974). Some of her work is available in translation, in I. Howe, R. Wisse, Kh. Shmeruk, The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse; S. Levitan, Paper Roses; S. Mayne and R. Augenfeld, Generations; S. Meltzer, Shirim ve-Adamah.

bibliography:

lynl, 8 (1981), 140–42; Z. Reyzn, Leksikon fun der Yidisher Literatur, Prese un Filologie, 3 (1929), 569–70; R. Oyerbakh, in: Di Tsukunft, 84, no. 1 (Jan. 1978), 20–22; Y.Glatshteyn, in: In Tokh Genumen (1956), 315–22; E. Orenstein, in: The Canadian Jewish Mosaic (1981), 293–313; S. Levitan, in: Identifications: Ethnicity and the Writer in Canada (1982), 116–34.

[Seymour Levitan (2nd ed.)]

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