Karsch, Anna Luise (1722–1791)

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Karsch, Anna Luise (1722–1791)

German poet. Name variations: Anna Louisa Karsch or Karschin. Born Anna Louisa Dürbach in Silesia, Germany, in 1722; died in 1791; schooled by an uncle at home; married twice; three children, including daughter Karoline Luise von Klencke (1754–1812) who was also a poet.

Works include:

Auserlesene Gedichte (Selected Poems, 1764); Einige Oden über verschiedene hohe Gegenstände (Odes on Various Subjects, 1764); Poetische Einfälle, Erste Sammllung (Poetical Ideas, 1764); Kleinigkeite (Little Nothings, 1765); Neue Gedichte (New Poems, 1772).

Poet Anna Karsch was the first woman writer in Germany to support herself and her children by writing. Her fame, however, was born of struggle, beginning with her childhood in Silesia. Born in 1722, she was the daughter of a innkeeper who died when she was six. She was then sent to live with her uncle who fortunately taught her to read and write before sending her back to her mother who had remarried. At 16, Karsch married a weaver who abused her and then left her when she was pregnant with their third child. Her second marriage was to a tailor named Karsch, an alcoholic who had difficulty holding down a job. With her family on the brink of poverty, Karsch began writing poetry to celebrate patriotic and family occasions. Her talent soon captured the attention of literary figures such as Gotthold, Mendelssohn, Herder, and even Goethe, who extolled her as "Sappho Resurrected." In recognition of her long poem inspired by the Seven Years' War, she was granted an audience by Frederick II, king of Prussia. Karsch fell in love with the poet Johann Wilhelm Gleim (1719–1803), who arranged for the first publication of her poetry in 1764, but did not return her affection. She later moved to Berlin, establishing herself there as a writer of note and a woman of independence. The poet died in 1791.

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